Friday, October 12, 2012

Beer-opening experience

As part of my continuing series of local businesses connected to the cycling scene, I give you Pest-based manufacturer Tipton Eyeworks. You may ask, "What do eyeglass frames have to do with cycling?" I could give a range of answers to this (e.g. they help you see where you're going, they keep bugs out of your eyes), however the one that seems most relevant at this point in time is the hipster connection. Tipton specializes in retro eyeglass frames made of recycled materials -- it's hard to think of a fashion accessory better suited to the hip-to-the-jive, fixie ridin' urbanite.
Tipton doesn't have figures on its penetration of the hipster market, but according to this poster, the potential is huge.
I learned about Tipton this past summer while scanning the news one day on A day or two earlier, my prescription Ray-Bans had fallen apart, the victim of a series of manglings meted out by my two-year-old daughter, Sequoia. I'd superglued them together, but this was a stop-gap solution and I desperately needed a new pair. As if bidden by my subconscious (there was no google hocus pocus here -- I hadn't done an "eyeglass" search), a banner ad appeared on the caboodle homepage -- "Tipton Eyeworks: Handmade in Hungary." Clicking further, I learned that Tipton's frames were not only locally designed and manufactured, they were made of recycled vinyl records! Good Lord, I thought. Locally made, recycled materials, rock'n'roll looks -- they're pushing all my buttons!

But that was just for starters. I went down to their workshop -- a sprawling flat in a turn-of-the-century building at Belgrad rakpart 26 -- and a young Hungarian/Dutch guy Peter greeted me at the door. He invited me to peruse the frame selection, which was considerable -- not surprising as this is the place where they're made and shipped out from to scores of eyeglass shops around the world.

I tried on several pair, all very cool looking, but most of them somehow TOO cool for my 47-year-old face. I may have harboured fantasies of looking like Buddy Holly, but when I put on a pair called "Holly", I decided these were more suited to a 18-year-old guitar slinger. After a bit, I settled on a model called "Bank ". The name makes them sound conservative, but they actually look much trendier than anything a real banker would wear (except, apparently, in France, where Tipton sells 45% of their product).

The Banks I tried on were made of three plies of plastic. The front was black grooved vinyl -- from a recycled record, as promised in the ad. The inner ply was a mosaic acetate of gold and brown and rust, and the middle ply, a nice cream colour -- like cookie filling. But these things weren't just attractive, they were substantial. In particular, the bridge was nearly a centimetre thick, which would make it more than twice as strong as my flimsy Ray-Bans. I thought -- knock on wood -- these things may well be a match for Sequoia.

So the Banks were definitely for me -- the only problem was that the bows (or "temples" as Peter called them) were a little short and didn't hook securely around my ears. No problem, said Peter. He scrounged through another drawer until he found a pair with longer bows. You'd have to understand the depth of my feelings about beer to appreciate this next bit: The frames that Peter presented had brushed steel bows which in profile looked like bottle openers. "Those look like bottle openers," I observed. "Actually, they ARE bottle openers," replied Peter. "You can really open a beer with them."

The hilarious thing is that Peter was almost apologetic about it. As if glasses that doubled as beer openers could somehow be -- I struggle to understand this -- undesirable. In fact, when he went to the computer to check the list price, this specific pair was half off. Apparently, glasses that double as beer openers are hard to sell. In France, anyway, but I say no more.

I scratched my chin as if mulling the the matter over in my head. And then I said in the most nonchalant tone I could muster that I would take them.

I've had these things since July -- about three months. They have been very effective in keeping bugs out of my eyes and helping me see while I'm biking. Sequoia has thrashed them several times, and they've retained their shape perfectly. And I've opened probably 40 beers with them. During our vacation in Turkey, they were lifesavers. Vacation apartments in Muslim countries tend not to have beer openers in their utensil drawers. Thank you Tipton Eyeworks!


Méva said...


polmarfi said...

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Great stuff!