A few years ago, John Richter paid $125 for a pair of sunglasses in preparation for a trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, not considering how much money that was and feeling like he deserved to treat himself.
But when, just a couple of days into the trip, those expensive sunglasses took a dive off of his head into the Sea of Cortez, never to been seen again, Richter asked himself a natural question.
“What was I thinking?”
“Why did I pay so much for those sunglasses,” said Richter, owner of Greater Lakes, a sunglasses retailer. “They were just plastic, they weren’t any different than any other pair I’d ever bought.”
Richter set out to answer his own question, researching sunglass brands, manufacturing details and other issues, bought the industry report of the company he says controls most brands, and started making phone calls.
“It turns out you’re paying for the brand, not for any reasons you should be choosing a pair of sunglasses – quality or fit,” Richter said. “I started looking into making my own.”
That’s how Greater Lakes was born, with a soft launch in May 2017, selling largely to family, friends and friends of friends. But when the folks at Beards Brewery in Petoskey saw them, a co-branding was formed and Beards began selling the sunglasses.
“They have a patio with a beautiful view, but they realized the sun was in customers’ eyes when it went down,” Richter recalled. “(Beards) reached out to us, and it took off from there.”
Until now, Greater Lakes has been available only online. That changes this spring, when the company starts selling its sunglasses at locations and festivals around the state. Greater Lakes, LLC is a Michigan-based sunglasses company located in Lake Orion. Frames are largely made of sturdy woods and plastic, and all cost under $30 per pair. All of the frame-names, Richter pointed out, are Michigan/Great Lakes-themed, and designed for an active lifestyle (strong spring construction, etc.).
“If you’re climbing, hiking, surfing or boating, you shouldn’t be worried about your glasses,” Richter said. “Stuff happens … Glasses get lost, sat on, stolen, ran over, you name it.”
The first “real world” chance for buyers to get the sunglasses comes at the Orion Art Center’s Dragon on the Lake festival that takes place August 22-25, 2019 in Lake Orion.
“We’ve been growing … we’ve got enough stock in place that we’re starting to sell at festivals like Dragon on the Lake,” Richter said.
More information is available on