Wood Wonders

The perfect sunglasses for the boater in your life — or for anyone looking to make a style statement.
The Boaters: Dane and Melanie Clark and their four children — Michael, 23; Kacie, 22; Michelle, 19; and Elise, 18

The Boat: A 31-foot Formula 31 PC named Just Sayin’

Hometown: Perry, Ohio

Where they Dock: Geneva Marina in Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio

Dane Clark is the kind of guy who charts his own course. When he was a teenager, he cut grass and packed bags in a grocery store to save up enough money to buy his first boat — a ski boat he bought in 1977 for $1,500. In 2000, he and his wife, Melanie, started their own business. Vivimax Technologies supplied coatings for precision optics. And when they sold the business in 2010, it looked like it was time to relax, explore and enjoy life. Then, Dane had an idea.

A summer off: After selling Vivimax, Dane and Melanie were on the lake “almost constantly.” They have a condo on the lake in Geneva from which they could walk to their boat in the marina and bike and hike a nearby trail. “It was a fabulous summer,” Dane says.

But…One Monday morning in the fall, after the boat was docked for the winter, Dane woke up and asked himself a question: Now what do I do? Idea man: “I started getting all restless,” Dane says. So he sat down with his laptop. “It was like I went into a cave for a couple of weeks,” he says. “I just let my mind go wherever.”

Eureka: Dane settled on the idea of making wood sunglass frames. He started researching equipment, signed up for a class on digital fabrication techniques for woodworking in North Carolina and got to work. “By Christmas time, our garage was filled with equipment I bought and in January I leased the space we’re in.” He spent the next year installing equipment and designing sunglasses. His line, Nautique Optix, was introduced at the Miami International Boat Show in February 2013.

Sleek, sporty, stylish: There are five different styles of glasses and seven woods to choose from, including cherry, mahogany, bubinga, zebrawood, wenge, oak and maple. They range in price from $185 to $290 and can be ordered at nautiqueoptix.com. “We have kind of a nautical flavor,” Dane says. “The glasses are done in the spirit of wood boats.”

Surprise: The Nantucket Elite sunglasses that Clark sent us to sample weighed only 1.3 ounces. Plus, if you happen to drop them in the water, they float.

Business plans: Just five companies in the United States make wood sunglasses and 30 in the world. Dane’s goal is to grow the business to sell 25 pairs a day. “On one hand, that seems like a lot,” he says. “But with the world as our marketplace, I think it’s doable. There are literally hundreds of millions of sunglasses sold every year.”

Summer plans: The Clarks like to boat to Presque Isle in Erie, Pa., and Fairport Harbor and Ashtabula Harbor in Ohio. Dining suggestion: The pulled-pork sandwich at Briquettes Smokehouse in Ashtabula. “It’s a really fantastic little barbecue place,” Dane says.

Water wonder: “Oh man, just really that sense of peacefulness and freedom, just generally that kind of calmness,” is how Dane describes his time on his boat. “I’m not really all big on astrology, but my wife and I are both Cancers and they are supposedly people who are drawn to water. For us that is really true. There’s just nothing like being out there.”