Seeing Stars

Owner Russ Campbell has been collecting and selling vintage eyewear for the last three decades. Photos by Kamala Kirk

At first glance, one might presume that Old Focals is just another vintage store designed with the avid collector of eyeglasses in mind. But there’s more than meets the eye at this local spot, which has made a name for itself both in Hollywood and worldwide. According to owner Russ Campbell, who started the business over three decades ago, it all started with a dream.

“I had a dream where I was looking at this old man bouncing a baby on his knee, and he took off his sunglasses and put them on the baby,” Campbell described. “Then I asked him if I could have those old focals. I woke up in the middle of the night and as I was writing down my dream, I thought it would be cool to get old eyeglasses and make them into sunglasses. My mom thought it was a great idea, so we went out and got a bunch of glasses, took them to an optician in a lab and had them made into sunglasses. After seeing how it was done, I realized I could do it, too, and the next thing I knew, I was selling them wholesale to retail stores.”

Old Focals is an award-winning purveyor of eyewear located on Mission Street.

It wasn’t long before Hollywood eventually came knocking on Campbell’s door after coming across his unique glasses, and from that point on, his side hobby turned into a career. Nowadays, he provides eyewear for film and television, with his glasses appearing on hit shows such as “American Horror Story,” “Mad Men” and “Stranger Things.” He also has numerous celebrity fans like Gary Oldman, who comes into the shop every time he needs glasses for a film role. Campbell also sells a pair of glasses called the “JD” which stands for James Dean and Johnny Depp—the latter of whom is also another regular client.

“I’ve been making glasses for Johnny for more than 20 years, starting out with his movie ‘Secret Window,’” said Campbell.  “I also designed a pair of Buddy Holly-looking glasses for him with blue lenses, and as soon as he was photographed in them while hanging out with Keith Richards, tons of people in Japan wanted to order them.”

Most recently, Campbell has been working with Meryl Streep on “Little Women,” and he also designed 225 pairs of glasses for an upcoming Quentin Tarantino movie. Despite making it big in Tinseltown, he admits that a lot of people in his local community don’t know much about Old Focals.

“Hardly anybody in South Pasadena knows about us, but everyone around the world does,” he remarked. “We also do really well on the Internet.”

In addition to being an award-winning purveyor of eyewear to the entertainment industry, Campbell also manufactures his own line of brand-new eyeglasses that are sold in-store. He specializes in New Old Stock (NOS), which is vintage eyewear that has never been worn and is prescription-ready. He offers a range of vintage and antique eyewear from the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s and earlier. His glasses start at $129 and have earned a reputation for being high quality yet affordable at the same time.

Old Focals specializes in New Old Stock (NOS), which is vintage eyewear that has never been worn.

“I’m always sourcing, but I have hundreds of thousands of glasses that are in our warehouses, and there’s stuff still in storage that I bought 20 years ago that I haven’t seen,” Campbell laughed. “We also do custom orders, simple repairs, and we dye frames for people.”

Old Focals has two locations: one on Green Street in Old Pasadena and the other on Mission Street in South Pasadena. Campbell, who lives walking distance from his Mission Street location, loves being able to live and work in the town he calls home.

“I’ve always been connected to South Pasadena,” he said. “I’ve been here for 35 years and I always wanted to stay around here. I love that I get to walk to work every day. Who likes to commute?”

Old Focals has two locations. In South Pasadena it is located at 1110 Mission St. and is open Sun. – Mon. from noon to 6 p.m. and Tues. – Sat. from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. The store can be reached at (626) 799-7073. In Pasadena it is located at 45 West Green St. and is open Tues. – Sat. from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sun. from noon to 6 p.m. The store can be reached at (626) 793-7073.

The Old Focals Business Spotlight appeared in the print edition of the South Pasadena Review on 9.28.18.

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