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The Suburbanite
  • What I do: Making spectacles for a living

  • Alliance-based entrepreneur Phillip Mastroianni, 26, is something of a hipster. His style of dress is inspiredly offbeat, he can be seen tooling around on a Vespa scooter and he transports his merchandise to sales calls in a vintage working-man’s lunchbox.

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  • Alliance-based entrepreneur Phillip Mastroianni, 26, is something of a hipster. His style of dress is inspiredly offbeat, he can be seen tooling around on a Vespa scooter and he transports his merchandise to sales calls in a vintage working-man’s lunchbox.
    Mastroianni’s company, Anni Shades, markets hand-crafted wooden sunglasses and eyeglass frames that retail for $500 to $575 at high-end eyewear boutiques in New York City, San Francisco, Chicago and Miami. There are numerous retro-modern styles available, with 17 different wood options.
    A St. Thomas High School graduate who earned a business degree from Ohio University, Mastroianni has found a niche in eyewear fashion since launching his wholesale business in January.
    Q. How did you get inspired to make wooden frames?
    A. “I love doing things that are unique and different. I heard about  wooden frames but was really disappointed in the quality of them, so I took the idea and ran with it. And here I am today.
    Q. Would you describe yourself as a fashion guy?
    A. “I always have my eye on new trends and what’s hot. But when it comes down to it, I just wear what I like. That’s what your style is all about, expressing who you are.”
    Q. Who manufactures the frames?
    A. “My friend, Tyler Koehn, and I make every single frame, right here in Alliance, Ohio. Tyler brings the wood expertise to the table, and has been really instrumental in getting the company to where it is today. I would probably still be in my parents’ basement spinning my wheels without his help and knowledge!”
    Q. Is it a painstaking process?
    A. “Each pair takes about eight and a half hours from start to finish. We do every single step ‘in house,’ so it really allows us to make sure we maintain the quality you’d expect.”
    Q. The frames are costly. Are they sturdy?
    A. “A lot of people don’t quite know what to expect when they hear about wooden eyewear. But you bet your bottom dollar they are sturdy! It took us over a year of trial and error to make sure of that.”
    Q. Prescription frames are a new direction for you, right?
    A. “Yes. As the name (Anni Shades) suggests, we started off making just sunglasses. However, we saw that many of our customers were popping the sun lenses out and adding their prescription lenses so they could wear their wood all the time. We just released our first frame, The Overlook, designed specifically for prescriptions.”
    Q. What kind of exposure have you gotten nationally?
    A. “We have been featured in a few eyewear trade magazines as well as numerous fashion blogs and even as an accessory in a fashion show during New York’s Fashion Week this fall. I’m still waiting to open up Vogue or GQ and see them on Katy Perry or Justin Bieber. But Ingrid Michaelson, who just did a charity concert here at the Palace Theatre, got a pair!”
    Page 2 of 2 - You want a pair?
    To find out more about Anni Shades, visit www.annishades.com.