Last month we attended the annual Vision Expo East convention in New York. That always a welcome business s trip because New York’s our home where we spent 35 awesome years building businesses, teaching classes, and enjoying the sublime energy and culture of the City.
This year’s visit to the Expo was bittersweet. The convention, which grew bigger and bigger each year has begun to shrink. It seems the American optical industry is shrinking. And so, sadly, is OGI, the manufacturer of Scojo New York reading glasses.
We discovered the show in 2006 when Professor Levit, the owner of VisAcuity.com, decided to build an e-commerce website as a lab for his Internet Marketing students at New York University. Two eye doctors owned Scojo New York at the time and contributed most of the company’s profits to a foundation they operated, the mission for which was to provide eyecare and eyeglasses to the disadvantaged. They kept the foundation operational when they sold the company to OGI in Minneapolis.
Retailers of the Scojo brand were concerned. How could a company from Minnesota portray the energy, excitement, and diversity of the greatest city in the world? Quickly, fears were allayed. Dave Spencer, the owner and head designer of OGI brought a unique aesthetic and bold sense of color to the “New Scojo” reading glasses.
But something was wrong. The line went awry over the past year and a half. Product design became ordinary. The color combinations, bland. And Scojo sales on our website declined. It no longer paid to offer Scojo’s products. And, as a matter of irony, calls and emails went out to online retailers explaining Scojo would no longer be sold online—except by Scojo itself. That was fine, no hard feelings. And, in fact, we scheduled an appointment with the new Scojo kahuna to say “thanks” for the past and to wish him well into the future.
We were greeted with surprise. It appeared we weren’t expected to keep our appointment. But after we sat down for a chat, his posture became uneasy, his eyes darted left and right unable to focus his attention on us, and we told him a bit about our future plans, a nicety that wasn’t required but since we had a few career moves in common we thought it would be nice fodder for conversation.
He got rid of us quickly. We can’t say for certain, but it felt like either finances or politics at OGI/Scojo may be tenuous. Its display was a shadow of its former self.
Still, Scojo, we wish you well. And we’re glad we attended Vision Expo East this year. We discovered Dave Spencer has established a new company as has John Nides. Dave and John, were, after all, the faces, personalities, and talent behind OGI and Scojo New York. And soon we hope to be back in business with them.