Tylerite Repairs Old Frames, Reusing Parts From Discards
By KENNETH DEAN
The blue flame on the tiny torch heated up the high-priced solder as Curt Paul meticulously worked to repair the frames on a pair of glasses -- frames that might otherwise be deemed damaged beyond repair.
A wisp of smoke floated above the torch and the acrid smell of the melting Pallarium (solder often used in dental work) filled the room.
His fingers expertly moved the glasses across the flame and then he stopped to inspect his work.
"That'll do it, I think," he said as he dipped the frame into a pan of water to cool the metal.
The 60-year-old owner and operator of the Eyeglass Repair Shoppe has been working with glasses for the last four decades.
Paul continued working on the glasses as his customer sat patiently in the waiting room.
While Paul tweaked the frames with various tools, each time stopping to check the progress, Ann Miller, of Tyler, said she was happy there was a place in Tyler where she could get her glasses fixed.
"Oh, it's a blessing to have something like this here, and to have someone you can trust that will do a great job," she said.
Mrs. Miller said she took her broken frames into the place where she bought them and was told to go see Paul.
"We had actually used him before, but I forgot. When the optician told me about this place, I remembered my husband had his glasses repaired here," she said.
Many of the opticians in Tyler refer their customers to Paul because they do not make major repairs, however, some locally owned shops do offer repairs.
One optician at a national chain said Paul "is a master at what he does."
Benito Barin, an optician for Eye Glass World, said "We send all of our customers there and we've never heard anything bad. He's a great guy and does a great job."
Back at Paul's shop, he called Mrs. Miller into his workroom to try on her glasses.
He asked her to forgive him for not standing up, but explained he was having trouble with both of his hips and could not stand easily.
Paul said he has been told by Veterans Affairs doctors he will have to have both hips replaced.
"Tell me how they feel and if you notice any problems," he said as he sat in his swiveled chair.
Sliding the glasses into place, Mrs. Miller said the glasses fit fine and offered her thanks for his prompt attention to her crisis.
"It's so much better to have the option to get your glasses repaired than to have to buy a new pair. Thank you so much," she said to Paul before she collected her things and left the business directly behind Quiznos on South Broadway Avenue.
Paul, a Vietnam veteran, said he learned his trade while in the Navy in the 1970s while assigned to the Medical Corps.
Paul said, once he was drafted and passed his medical exam, he went to the Navy recruiter and joined.
Because of his experience on a farm and knowledge of heavy equipment, he thought when he tested he would placed in the Navy as a Seabee and was dumbfounded when his orders came down.
"I couldn't believe they said I tested high enough for medical and that is where I was being assigned. I thought, 'there's no way,'" he said. "I asked them, 'me, in medical, are you crazy?'"
After he went through basic training he was sent to his school and Paul said he was terrified.
"I knew I could be an electrician or definitely a heavy equipment operator, but medical?" he said with a quizzical expression.
He explained that he worked on a ship and that is when his career began shifting to optical, when he began refracting the eyes of his fellow shipmates.
With a little prodding, Paul applied for an optical program with the Navy, but was initially turned down. On his second attempt he was accepted into the program and that is where he began to fine tune his craft.
Once he completed the school, he was assigned to the lab at Yorktown Naval Weapons Station in Virginia where he and 104 other technicians made eyeglasses for military members stationed east of the Mississippi River and for all of the U.S. Congress members.
Paul said he learned every aspect of the optical business and, upon leaving the Navy 10 years later as an E5 Hospital Man 2nd class, he continued in the private sector by first working for Pearle Vision.
Through an opportunity that was the byproduct of a friendship with a co-founder of a national optical chain, Paul ended up in Tyler in 1992 and has been a resident ever since.
When things didn't work out with the optical company, Paul decided to open his own repair shop, in July 2001 because there was a need.
Turning back to his workspace, Paul grabbed a power tool and began grinding some rough edges off a pair of frames.
Next he reached up to a case containing odds and ends and grabbed a piece he needed to fix the hinge on a frame.
Surrounding his workroom are shelves filled with hundreds of old eyeglass frames that he has collected through the years and some that local optical shops in the area have brought him.
There are gold frames, silver frames, some plastic and some titanium and frames of different styles, but Paul said he keeps them just in case.
Paul said he averages between 45 and 55 pairs each week and he said there has only been a handful of times he has not been able to make repairs to customers' glasses.
He said titanium frames present the biggest challenge and sometimes they cannot be fixed without a laser system he has not purchased.
But he said he will always try to muster through any difficulties to satisfy his customers.
"This is my passion and is what I love to do. I love helping people and I am saving them quite a bit of money when I fix their glasses instead of them having to buy new ones," he said.
Paul said many times the local optical companies will send him customers, or as he still sees them, because of his medical background, patients.
Paul said he has a nifty slogan for folks to remember his business when their glasses break.
"If your glasses need an overhaul call Curt Paul," he laughed.
Just then the shop's doorbell sounded alerting Paul he had another customer.
"Can you bring your glasses on back here please," he asked.
Moments later he began to inspect the frames and then picked up his torch and started the repairs.
Paul's shop is at 5221 S. Broadway Ave. No. 1, and he can be reached at 903-509-1517.