If you aren’t familiar with Rio Ray, it’s probably because they are so new to the sunglass scene. The owner certainly is not, though. Sunglass veteran, Jarrod Sanders, has been in the industry for over two decades, and we are very proud that he chose us to be among the first to carry and promote his brand. While we are still working to become experts on the brand, we thought, what better way to get to know a brand than to get to know it’s creator? And, Jarrod was kind enough to let us interview him. Check it out!
SSC: What excites you about the sunglass industry?
Jarrod: Sunglasses are one of the most personal and fun consumer products that people purchase for themselves. They are simply function, fashion and style for your face. Everyone has a story about their favorite sunglasses and it is easy to relate to each other as salesperson and customer by sharing these stories.
SSC: What inspired you to create Rio Ray?
Jarrod: There are so many great sunglass brands in the marketplace and I wanted to create a brand that embodied all the great things I would want if I was the consumer. A very comfortable fit, great style and look, polarized lenses and a lifetime warranty. But most importantly I did not feel that a really great pair of sunglasses should cost more than $100 period.
SSC: What were you doing before then?
Jarrod: I have been in the sunglass industry since 1991 after a brief stint in department store retail management (boring). I launched a mall based chain of sunglass kiosks with over 80 locations. Not satisfied I opened the first Sunglass Warehouse location in 1989 encompassing all major brands with a new sunglass shopping experience that was a big hit with consumers. After growing that division, it was later sold and then acquired by Luxottica.
SSC: What is/was the sunglass market missing, and how is Rio Ray addressing it?
Jarrod: There has always been a need for a pair of sunglasses for under $100 that you can try on and look at yourself in the mirror while comparing them to other higher priced brands and think “Why in the world would I pay double for the same quality product”!?
SSC: What were some of the biggest hurdles you faced when building Rio Ray?
Jarrod: Going from being a national retailer to product design and wholesale. There are many facets that go into creating a high-quality pair of sunglasses and I had to learn quickly. It is a fascinating process and I know that we have created a superior product for less by working with the right factories and streamlining the manufacturing process.
SSC: Who are some of the mentors or great influences you met along the way?
Jarrod: On the business side I have studied the great retailers Sam Walton, Arthur Blank and Jeff Bezos. On design I have to say Elon Musk and Steve Jobs. There are many others along the way that I have worked with directly and too many to name but these are the ones that come to mind.
SSC: What was your first nice pair of sunglasses?
Jarrod: A great question and one have always asked customers on the sales floor. It brings back so many memories almost like your first car or first kiss. For me it was a pair of Vaurnets with dark amber double gradient lenses and gloss black frames. Next up was the Revo active wrap 🙂 = Old School
SSC: Which ones do you wear now?
Jarrod: Today I sport the Rio Ray Seaside which is a lightweight wrap with spring hinges and blue mirror polarized lenses. My backup pair is a Rio Ray West Palm custom fitted with blue mirror polarized lenses.
SSC: Why the name Rio Ray?
Jarrod: It simply made me envision a tropical vacation 🙂
SSC: What’s next for Rio Ray?
Jarrod: Being the next sunglass brand where someone asks you “Where did you get those sunglasses?!” (and you are proud to tell them)
SSC: What do you “Live Outside…” for?
Jarrod: I can’t ever walk outside without sunglasses on. During my days in the Florida Keys, on the lake, playing tennis or playing golf, I always have an extra pair of sunglasses on hand and my friends always thank me.
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