Here’s how entrepreneur Larry Sands went from a small-town boy with visions of greatness to an unmatched business trendsetter recognized worldwide for his luxury eyewear, watches, autos and more.
At 11 years old, Larry Sands already was dreaming of leaving the small town of Farmington, Mo., for greener pastures. That fantasy propelled the driven young entrepreneur to launch his very first business, buying foreign stamps out of comic books, repackaging them and selling them to his friends for a profit. That was followed shortly after by a shoeshine stand, and then a part-time high school job with an eye doctor who taught him the ropes of the optical industry. Sands went on to make eyeglasses and sell them out of his dorm room at college before opening his own chain of optical shops in Missouri, which he eventually sold. Next, he hit the road on and off for some eight years as a rock ’n’ roll guitarist (opening for bands like Led Zeppelin and Vanilla Fudge). The optical field soon lured him back in, however, with his big break in the industry coming in 1970 while he was on vacation in Aspen. There, he recognized a need in the star-studded city for custom, fashion-forward eyewear and started the first luxury optical boutique in the world to outfit notable personalities, from Elton John to John Denver, with his own uniquely created frames. Fast-forward to today, and the wily trailblazer has gone on to form 77 other businesses, including his own eyewear brands for Kieselstein Cord and Chrome Hearts, along with the innovative exotic EuroCar (eurocaroc.com) showroom in Costa Mesa. And lest anyone imagine the youthful 81-year-old husband and father to a 12-year-old daughter might be showing signs of slowing down, his EuroCollective, a new 3,000-square-foot, $2 million-plus optical superstore, is set to open at Fashion Island this summer, complete with an independent optometrist on the premises at all times, a lab using only Zeiss lenses and chic eyewear such as Sands’ own Paradis Collection. Also on tap: a watch department offering the finest timepieces in the world (think Rolex, Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe and more), VIP fitting room and concierge service that will perform in-home fitting services, and other surprises in the works. “When people weren’t making quality frames, that’s when I went out and made them myself,” says Sands. “I changed the industry, and I changed it a half-dozen times. Maybe I’m changing it again—in the 1800s, all the optical shops and optometrists practiced out of jewelry stores and watch shops, and that’s how this industry started. I’m kind of getting back to those roots at Fashion Island.”