Maxx Sunglasses focusing on profits

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Bret Milner, and his parents, Rick and Nancy Milner.

Leading the Maxx team, left-right: Bret Milner, and his parents, Rick and Nancy Milner.

MONUMENT, Colo. — Proving once again that people love a bargain, Maxx Sunglasses is on a growth tear.

The 7-year-old company, which sells what it bills as “HD” sunglasses for a mere $20 a pop, is preparing to break ground on a 14,000-square-foot warehouse amid projections that it will be able to double its 25-member staff by next summer.

Owners Rick, Nancy and Bret Milner say they are preparing to build a $2 million warehouse and office building in the Monument Business Park, where they are currently leasing 7,500 square feet.

Last year, when most businesses were downsizing, Maxx Sunglasses grew by 30 percent, Rick Milner said. The company, which obtains its sunglasses from manufacturers in China and Taiwan, is on track to grow by 50 percent by the end of this year, he said. With 22 styles, Maxx Sunglasses expects to close this year with revenues of $4.5 million, he said.

“We are not a sunglass company — that’s not what we are,” Rick Milner said. “We are about a specific lens and that lens has a real function as to what people do in sports.”

Well, a lot of people are just fine with that claim. But skeptics might suggest otherwise.

There’s actually nothing HD, or high definition, per se with the sunglasses sold by the company. That technology is commonly associated with televisions nowadays and it costs big bucks. The sunglasses sold by Maxx, however, do reduce glare because they use a variation of amber-tinted lenses that are designed to filter out blue spectrums of light, thus enhancing the vividness of colors.

The Milners started their business in 2004, setting up under a yellow tent at various locales and hawking “copy cat” sunglasses, or designer knock-offs. For about three years they sold a variety of sunglasses, mostly at the corner of Academy and Palmer Park boulevards.

When the weather was cold and snowy in Colorado, they headed to Arizona or Florida and set up their tent. They sold about 5,000 sunglasses a year. Golfers apparently liked them most.

“I remember standing on the street corners and seeing people’s reaction to the lens,” Nancy Milner said. “It was grueling work. But we have the experience of seeing people be amazed by the lens.”

You might have seen that sort of testimonial on TV, too. Lots of companies are selling these sunglasses all around the country, and infomercials for the sunglasses have popped up on mostly late-night TV or cable.

In any case, the Milners have worked hard to build their business.

“I’d get up at 5 a.m. and start calling golf courses on the East Coast and I’d just work my way across the country,” Rick Milner said.

The Milners’ son Bret was recruited as the first employee to box up the products and make display stands for the sunglasses.

Maxx Sunglasses has found new markets in tackle and bait shops and motorcycle shops, as well as drug stores.

Inside the Maxx Sunglasses office and warehouse in Monument, sales associates have giant U.S. maps on the walls to track wholesale accounts nationwide.

The $20 price tag of their sunglasses is as much a part of the branding as the lens, Bret Milner said. His goal is to make Maxx a household name — like Oakley, for example — but in the lower price range, he said.

“The $20 price point … is where we’ve been successful and we can’t go away from that,” Bret Milner said.

This year, Maxx Sunglasses expects to sell 750,000 sunglasses. The growth of the business sometimes takes Rick Milner’s breath away.

“I have a CFO,” he repeated twice, surprise in his voice. “Can you imagine? If you told me five years ago that I would have a CFO who would handle the money of my company and make sure my 25 employees got paid, I would have said, ‘You’re out of your mind.’ “

This summer, Maxx Sunglasses started advertising on the jumbotron at the Rockies baseball park. It has hired a Minnesota promotions company and is seeking to get a major league baseball license, which would allow it to put baseball team logos on the arms of its sunglasses.

“It’s is one of those businesses you start from the garage and it just took off overnight,” Rick Milner said. “Funny thing is, when we were building this business, we never really tried to get to this point.”