Ask Gerald Wilson how he came to start his wholesale eyewear company, Vanguard Glasses, and the details spill out. “It was 45 years ago, 1965,” he says without hesitation. “I was salesman for Helena Rubenstein Cosmetics, and just decided to try something else. I found I could fit 100 boxes, each containing a dozen pair of sunglasses, into the trunk of my car. So that’s what I did,” he notes. Wilson started his company the old fashioned way, going door-to-door and account-to-account.
“I traveled a thousand miles a week and worked 100 hours a week,” he says. “I got some accounts and kept at it.” But it’s all paid off, because at 86 years of age, Wilson is still at it, running Vanguard Sunglass Co. Inc., out of his Pittsburgh headquarters.
Vanguard carries an extensive line of both reading and sunglasses, all at extremely low prices. His best sellers are the old standbys, he says. “Reading glasses are still a big seller, wholesaling for 60 cents each. Stores sell them for $2 each and up,” he notes. “We also carry designer sunglasses, that wholesale for $2 a pair, and retailers sell them for $10 and up.” Vanguard buys much of its stock in China, which is then shipped in 40-foot containers that end up at his 30,000 square-foot warehouse. Minimum orders are only $60, and for larger orders buyers will also get a display to showcase the glasses. “We sell good merchandise at good prices, Wilson says. “What more could you want?”
–Rory J. Thompson