Sammann Inc., a fourth-generation run Michigan City company that designs fashionable brands of reading glasses, was recently named one of 27 companies to watch by the Indiana Small Business Development Center, a list that encompasses businesses statewide that have made meaningful economic contributions and have showed rapid job growth.
“The fact that we are growing so quickly and were recognized and nominated by the Economic Development Corporation Michigan City (EDCMC) really helped us in the process,” said Alec Sammann, who has owned the business along with his sister, Lindsay, since 2010. “Being a fourth generation business was key, too, because not many make it that far.”
Sammann was one of only two companies in the Northwest Indiana region, the other being RS2 Technologies of Munster, to be named to the list. They were nominated by the EDCMC.
Even though they have been around for 62 years and at their current location at 9935 E. U.S. Highway 12 since 1972, Sammann, Inc. with their hit brand, “Peepers,” has taken off exponentially over the last four years - increasing their number of employees from six to 20 and becoming a hit on the global stage.
This year, they have been profiled nationally on the cover of Oprah Magazine in April with Oprah Winfrey herself holding a pair. Two months prior to that, ‘Peepers’ brand glasses were listed as one of Oprah’s favorite things. Howie Mandel also wore a pair of the specs on an episode of America’s Got Talent.
About 500 Indiana companies were nominated by a number of organizations for the “Companies to Watch” list, with 50 being moved on to the second round through what Alec Sammann called “an extensive process.” Another round of eliminations left the glasses-designer leader as one of 27 to be recognized with the award.
Months prior to every season, Sammann, Inc. designs 350 or so products that are “all fashion oriented,” sends them to a factory to make samples and then launches about 100 of the best at major gift markets throughout the nation.
“Glamping,” “Wise Guy” and “The Butler” are some of the unique styles being showcased on the company’s website.
“I wouldn’t say we are setting the trend, but we are definitely on trend,” Sammann said.
Sammann said the model of the company is to tie in fashion with affordability, noting that the average price of a pair of their glasses is $21.
While the best-seller list for Fall, 2014 has yet to be released, a design called “Lighten Up” was listed as this year’s most popular summer brand.
“We are much more edgy and contemporary than our competitors,” Sammann said. “Our design really sets up apart. It’s a huge commitment to put that effort in, but it has sure paid off.”
Sammann products are available at several markets and seven permanent company showrooms in large cities nationwide. Locally, the products are available at Urban Soles in Michigan City, Whittaker House in New Buffalo, Mich. and three Al’s Supermarket locations in Michigan City, La Porte and New Buffalo.
The Sammann lines, “Peepers” - a boutique style and “SpecSee” - designed for the mass market, have grown so much that plans have begun for an expansion at the Michigan City company - the third in the 40-plus years at this location.
The expansion will add about 3,000 square feet at the location and include more office and warehouse space. The company’s new logo will be visible from U.S. 12 and five new jobs in the field of sales, customer service and logistics will be added.
“We really need this because we are growing so quickly,” Sammann said.
“Double Bar,” a third line of glasses - what Sammann says will be like “our Cadillac of the market” is also expected to make its debut soon.
The history of Sammann is quite unique. It’s a company that has been passed down through generations, underwent a gradual change in the products they have marketed yet remained in Michigan City the entire time under the same name.
Glasses didn’t even come into the equation until 1985, as Sammann almost exclusively sold scissors prior to that. The Peepers brand of reading glasses launched in 1994 as six styles “blew up” at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago.
“We weren’t prepared for how popular they became immediately,” Sammann said. “We did about $35,000 in business in three days.”
Shortly after Alec and Lindsay purchased the business from their father in 2010, scissors were discontinued completely so they could focus on stylish reading glasses, what Sammann calls their “core competency.”
Six hundred styles later and they are a “company to watch.”
Prior to the planned expansion, Sammann, Inc. currently employs 20 people on site in addition to a team of designers in Chicago, marketing group in Oregon and public relations teams in New York and Beverly Hills. More than 100 independent sales reps also help market Peepers and SpecSee. But all the major decisions are made in house, under what is still referred to as a small business.
“Everything is under one roof,” Sammann said. “Since we are a small business, if there’s an issue we know of - we can change something right away under a dime.”
Being located somewhat centrally in the United States, only 2-3 business days a required to ship products anywhere in the country.
Anyone directed to the company’s webpage (peeperspecs.com) from this article on LaPorteCountyLife.com will receive a coupon for 10 percent off any product site-wide by entering the code: LPLife. The offer is available through September 30.