|WATSONVILLE — At
a time when many companies are struggling to stay out of
the red, Santa Cruz-based Continental Sales Co. is looking
at the world through rose-colored glasses.
The privately owned company, ranked fifth in the nation
in eyeglass manufacturing, broke ground last week on a
55,000-square-foot, three-story facility in Watsonville.
The company projects its business will continue to grow
in the coming decade.
"No matter what the economy is like, people still
have to be able to see," said Bill Inman, Continental
Sales Co. vice president and chief executive officer. "You
can only put off getting that new pair of glasses for so
Completion of the facility is slated for late August 2003,
according to Jared Bogaard of Bogard Construction. The
Santa Cruz-based company is building the new facility at
180 Westgate Drive, on the east side of Highway 1 near
Graniterock’s headquarters, and also built the company’s
plant in Santa Cruz in the 1970s.
The building’s ground floor will house production,
while office and storage space will be on the second floor.
The third floor will be office space available for lease.
The company had been planning the new facility for 10
years. The decision to move was made because the Santa
Cruz facility had reached capacity.
That company-owned 45,000-square-foot facility on DuBois
Street in the Harvey West Park industrial area will close
once the new facility opens. Employees will be transferred
to Watsonville. Operations at the Salinas facility may
be transferred to Watsonville or San Jose eventually, Inman
said. That facility applies antireflective coating to lenses.
Continental Sales Co. operates five facilities nationwide
and one in Mexico, employing more than 200 people. The
company produces 750 to 900 pair of prescription lenses
per day. Production will increase up to 60 percent and
30 to 40 jobs will be created during the first year of
operation at the new facility.
The company is one of several with plans to locate in
Watsonville in the coming months. Home improvement giant
Home Depot plans to break ground on its 98,452 square-foot
store and 24,240 square-foot garden center next spring
at the corner of Loma Prieta and Green Valley Roads. The
store should open by winter 2003.
Dong Kim, Continental Sales Co. president and owner, founded
Continental Sales Co. in 1967 and steered the company from
a one-room operation on Mission Street into a $25 million
eyeglass empire by 2000.
Kim, who has no background in optometry, is an unlikely
eyeglass entrepreneur. He was born in Seoul, Korea, and
came to the United States to study law. Hearing about a
business opportunity to import eyeglass frames from Korea,
he invested his entire savings.
A few months later, his partners in the deal said they
were broke, and that the American market apparently wasn’t
interested in Korean frames.
Kim disagreed, tapped friends and family for more capital
and bought out his partners.
Today, doctors submit eyeglass prescriptions to the company,
which grinds stock lenses, called blanks, to fit a wearer’s
needs. Lenses are then cut to fit eyeglass frames. Afterward,
special coatings may be applied.
The process of creating lenses will be made more efficient
at the new facility with the help of emerging technology,
including machines that will allow workers to skip steps
during lens polishing, Inman said.
At the new plant, the company will have the capacity to
process more than 3,500 pair of lenses per day.
"This facility will allow increased production capacity
as well as include one of the most contemporary automated
and computer-driven operations found in the world," according
Designing the building from the ground up will improve
overall efficiency. Work space will be set up in a linear
fashion so employees don’t have to walk as far to
transport lenses to other work stations, he said. Conveyer
belts will be added to speed production.
Contact Karen A. Davis at email@example.com.
Continental Sales Co.
WHAT: Nation’s fifth-largest eyeglass manufacturer.
WHERE: 180 Westgate Drive, on the east side of Highway
1 in Watsonville.
FOUNDED: 1967 by Dong Kim.
FACILITIES: Frame Sales, 165 DuBois St., Santa Cruz; Ocular
Labs, 121 E. Brokaw Road, San Jose; Microcoating Lab, 401
Victor Way, Salinas.
INFORMATION: CSC recently broke ground on a new Watsonville
facility, slated for construction by late August 2003.
The new facility will create as many as 40 new jobs in
the area and allow the company to increase its production
by as much as 60 percent.