Michael Grover was fascinated by Latrodectus mactans—black widows—as a kid; not-so-consequently, he wanted to become an entomologist when he grew up. Then he wanted to be a truck driver. And then he wanted to be a rock star. “That certainly didn’t work out,” he says. Instead, he became an optician—specifically, someone who focuses on eyeglass frames and repairs. If you have a pair of spectacles that needs help, or you need a new pair, head to 141 Vassar St.; visit to learn more.

How did you get into the optical trade?

In high school, my brother and I worked sorting mail. He was offered a job in an optical lab; he took one look at that and said, “Hell no, but Mike might like it!” I jumped right in. They had a pile of frames and an acetylene torch, and I asked if I could play around with it. I took to it like a fish to water and never looked back—and pretty soon, I got so busy doing repairs that I couldn’t work for anyone else, and now I’m so damn busy that I can’t even work for myself. … (If only) I could clone myself—but without a mouth.

How long have you been at the Vassar Street location?

This is my 14th year here as of June 1.This building has morphed. It’s been a recording studio. It’s been a conduit for a lot of cool things. For 14 years, it’s been just me, one guy, autonomy. There’s nobody else here, just me to answer the phones, fix the toilets, pave the parking lot, pull the weeds and fix the roof. I wear a lot of hats. I’m not slinging drinks all day—not that that’s a bad thing; I do love my drink-slingers. But I do make people see. I’m an optician, which is the fun part. I’m a light-bender, and I like doing that.

What’s your clientele like?

Ages 2 to 102. Everybody has eyes, and a lot of people need glasses, and everyone who has glasses either breaks them or loses them or whatever else. I don’t just fix them; I also make them. I have my own frame line … and have 300 to  500 frames in stock at any one time. Just a quick, friendly warning: You know how they keep the spray paint locked up at Walmart in a glass case? They should keep fucking superglue locked up, too. Don’t try using superglue to fix your glasses; everybody tries it, and it doesn’t work! People don’t realize how viscous that stuff is. It hits the lens, and then it dries and sticks to the fingers. It’s a mess. Superglue is my nemesis.

What about environmental sustainability—keeping eyeglasses out of landfills?

I could easily fill up this building, if it had three stories, with all the eyeglasses I fixed or made over the last 38 years. One guy can make a dent (in the amount of waste); it only takes a small percentage of people to make a difference. To have a disposable society where everything is just tossed is fucking ludicrous. It’s like that movie WALL-E—it’s happening right now! We’re so goddamn close to Idiocracy, it’s frightening

Have the presence of online discount optical companies and the rise in laser surgery affected your business?

With all those options out there, it hasn’t made a dent. It’s one-on-one when you walk in my door. I know what I’m doing. I know someone’s prescription by a half a diopter just by looking at them. Sometimes, it’s just dead nuts on—I know what the cylinder axis is. And by just looking at a prescription, I will interpret the face shape and have four or five pairs already picked out and waiting for the customer to choose from. Nowadays, you can’t even get someone to answer a phone call with things like telemedicine. You can actually walk through my door without an appointment, and talk to a guy with four decades of experience.

David Robert

David Robert is the photo editor of the Reno News & Review. In his first stint as the RN&R’s photo editor, he won multiple Nevada Press Association and Association of Alternative Newsmedia awards...

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  1. My regular eye Dr. (Family Eyecare) recommended Michael to repair my broken glasses and the VERY NEXT DAY I saw this writeup in RN&R!! I dropped my broken frames of with him yesterday, nice little office, cool guy!!

  2. Just a quick followup, got my repaired glasses back from Michael yesterday, for a very reasonable price & I couldn’t tell they’d ever been broken! My wife came with me to pick them up & we all had a spirited conversation covering a wide variety of topics! Fun guy, fun shop, we’ll be back!

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