Shaded Vision’s doors first opened in Lavallette, NJ in 2002 when Tyler Mesanko filled a 500-sq.-ft. space about a block from the beach with sunglasses. While the business remains a sunglass shop at its core, it has since expanded into a much larger space, and the shades are accompanied—but not overshadowed—by clothing and accessories.
SUNGLASSES: How did you get your start in the sunglass business?
TYLER MESANKO: My father owned a very large surf shop for almost 30 years in Seaside Park, which is not too far from Lavallette. So I kind of grew up on the retail side of things, and he placed me mostly with the sunglasses. I was a little too young (aged 10 to 13) to be selling surfboards, and I wasn’t interested in girls’ clothing.
SG: What would you say your customers want to know, for the most part?
TM: They want to know why one pair of sunglasses can be so expensive when compared to another. I tell them that it just comes down to the quality of the frame. When you bend any kind of plastic, it distorts with a fishbowl kind of effect. If it’s a high-end plastic, the way it distorts your vision is minimal, as opposed to really value-priced sunglasses which actually often distort vision all day. The second you go outside with premium sunwear and you compare it to value sunglasses, you say, “Oh, okay, I get it.” That’s what we do a lot. We take customers outside to see the way things are crisp and clear. Some sunglasses almost relax your eyes.
SG: Your Facebook page is pretty active. How long has it been up?
TM: About two years now. I was late getting into the whole Facebook thing, and I just couldn’t believe how ignorant I was about it before. For sales and for new merchandise, it’s unbelievably effective. When I have big sales, I’m reaching out to twice as many people as I would have without it.
SG: What kind of experience do your customers have in your store?
TM: I have XM radio set up and I try to have something good playing in the background. If a mom and her kids come in, I’m going to put on a certain kind of music because I know that the mom is going to appreciate the fact that they’re not talking about sex or drugs in this song. I put a hip-hop station on and older kids react, saying, “Wow, I have that playing in my car—that’s Kanye West.” I like to be a DJ during the day, too.
SG: How does Shaded Vision’s décor reflect your personal style?
TM: I have Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin posters on the wall. I have ticket stubs from all the concerts I’ve gone to in the past 20 years in a gigantic frame on the wall in the sunglass department. Sometimes I’m a people person and sometimes I’m not, but if you want to talk about music, then I’m into it any time of the day.
SG: When does the season really pick up for you?
TM: I go to Vision Expo East in March, and by March 30, sunglasses are in the box, out the door, and in my store. My season really, businesswise, begins Memorial Day weekend. But there is life out there in April! It all depends on the weather—if it’s cold and windy, then we’re off. If it’s a nice, warm April, then great things happen.