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Made in the Shades

By Austin Holt | March 5, 2015 | Articles National

Contrary to first impressions, it’s a pretty easy jump from professional rodeo cowboy to eyewear entrepreneur. For clarification on that, check with Smith Baggett.

Last year, the Statesboro native was just finishing up a six-year stint riding bulls with the Pro Rodeo Cowboy Association in Jackson Hole, Wyo. (“It was a great time with great people,” says Baggett. “We burned down every hole-in-the-wall and honky-tonk we could find.”) The trip back home would be a long one, but a nugget of inspiration would fill his time during the lonely hours on the road.

“I was hanging out with some friends around a bonfire, and one of them had a wooden watch that he had purchased,” Baggett says. “I had never seen a wooden watch before, and it kind of blew my mind. So I thought, ‘Hey, why not wooden sunglasses?’”

Baggett pulled out his marketing skills from his days at Georgia Southern University and went to work, brainstorming while driving and solidifying ideas on his laptop at roadside cafes. Wood was switched to durable, sustainable bamboo; a logo was drafted on a cocktail napkin; colors and styles were mixed and matched. By the time he returned home to the family ranch, Grove Eyewear was a done deal.

“I took a few of the demo designs and shared them with my friends,” continues Baggett. “We were at a pool party and kind of noticed that people’s attention was being drawn our way. They would ask us, ‘Hey, where did you get those glasses?’ Of course, they weren’t for sale yet, so they started buying them off our faces at $80 a pop. I thought: Man. I’ve gotta do something with this.”

Now, just in time for summer, Grove Eyewear has hit the ground running. Eleven styles offer subtle variations on a flexible wayfarer theme, ranging from the contemporary, streamlined Skyfall to the most popular seller: a natural bamboo and tortoiseshell Ashton. A Warby Parker-friendly $80 to $100 will snag you the perfect polarized pair, and get this—these shades float. “You’ll never have to worry about losing your Costas when your drunk buddy pushes you off the boat again,” Baggett adds.

Check out the full selection online, but keep an eye open at Phipps Plaza too—Baggett’s in the process of inking a deal with Nordstrom to get these shades on the shelf. @groveeyewear



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