Keeping an eye out for quality
MICHIGAN CITY — This company was just named one of Indiana’s Best Places to Work for 2018 the second year in a row. Its products were chosen as one of Oprah’s Favorite Things. And, the local business was recently featured on Good Morning America for its Small Business Superhero $10,000 Award from Vistaprint.
The company is Peepers, a fourth-generational, family-owned and operated business, located at 9935 E. U.S. 12.
The beginning of Peepers, under the name of Sammann Company, dates back to the 1890s when Paul E. Sammann began the import and export business of screen cloth for windows as well as other hardware items. During the 20th century the company gradually shifted into an importer and distributor of scissors, shears and fine cutlery. Today, Sammann’s great-grandson, CEO and President Alec Sammann, runs Peepers with help from his father, Co-Founder and Chief Information Officer Paul Sammann; his mother, Co-Founder Terri Sammann; and sister, Creative Director Lindsay Sammann-Van Putten.
In 1985, the company purchased See Aid Optical, which produced eyewear and optical accessories and devices including magnifiers and eyeglass repair kits.
“Peepers itself was born in 1993 when Terri decided the current eyewear offering was a little boring and wanted to introduce fun reading glasses she was excited to wear,” explained Alec.
Today, Peepers offers 350 styles of readers and 40 sunglasses through its website, www.peepers.com, and ships to thousands of worldwide customers. Its products can also be found in the retail categories of gift apparel, gift shops or gourmet grocery stores. Locally, Peepers is carried by Darling Boutique, Nature’s Cupboard, and Al’s Supermarket on Karwick Road. A retail area of the Peepers office is open to the public on Fridays from 10 am. to 1 p.m. where customers can shop for and order glasses that will be shipped to their homes.
“Our readers are very unique and different than our competitors. The amount of detail that goes into the design and quality is unlike any other,” Alec said. “Each season we uncover what the trends will be and design our eyewear to fall in line with what’s current. Our designs are one-of-a-kind custom to Peepers. You will not find our prints or frames anywhere else. Our product is also of fantastic quality at a $22 price point. All of our readers provide dual anti-scratch coating, durable spring hinges and come with a free case.”
“Twice a year we launch a new collection of anywhere from 30 to 40 new styles,” he continued. “We recently revamped our sunglasses collection offering every style in a polarized no-power lens, hideaway bifocal lens and a full reader lens (earning the company the distinction of one of Oprah’s things again this year). All of our sunglasses have UV400 protection.”
“We also offer a collection of readers called Focus Technology. These frames help reduce digital eyestrain by minimizing potentially harmful blue light and glare from digital devices, making screen time a lot easier on the eyes,” Alec went on. “These frames are also available in no correction so someone that may not need readers, but wants the protection can also wear them. Many of us at the office wear these daily.”
Peepers have seen phenomenal growth in the past few decades, increasing 600 percent in seven years. To put this in perspective, Alec joined the company in 2010 as the seventh employee; today, there are a total of 32 team members. The Indiana office employs 25 and seven others work remotely from their residences in Illinois, California, Florida, Minnesota, Arizona and Hong Kong.
Peepers’ work-hard and play-hard philosophy has paid off with its recent distinction as one of Indiana’s Best Places to Work for 2018 in the Small Employer Category. (www.bestplacestoworkin.com).
“Our culture at Peepers is one a kind! We keep a lighthearted spirit and know how to have fun while getting the job done,” Alec said. “…We work really hard, but have a ton of fun doing it. Everyone at Peepers has a voice and we encourage and hope they use that voice to better the company. We’re not afraid to invest in the company and change on a dime. Every detail matters is something we live by.”
Each month that Peepers meets their revenue goal, the team members enjoy a “Yay Day” with activities such as cornhole tournaments, in-office mini massages, treats from snow cone and food trucks, miniature golfing inside the office or the challenge of a 68’ inflatable obstacle course set up in the parking lot. Each quarter, team members who work in different departments are encouraged to get to know each other better through company-paid lunches on the clock, and after-hour events are arranged for time together outside of work. There are Big Idea winners whose suggestions are welcomed for making any aspect of the company better. A Monthly Huddle keeps everyone up-to-speed and informed of the Peepers’ focus. In addition, three office dogs, Sam, Gus and Rex, add a bit of furry fun to the office atmosphere.
Peepers’ light-hearted business approach translates into the office building itself, which was remodeled extensively in 2016 to include an office gym, stocked kitchen, Ping-Pong table and more. Giant inspirational sayings of “Serve It Up!” and “Look To Be Seen” cover the office walls.
“It exudes a team essence and culture,” said Alec. “Our team enjoys this office. It’s warm, welcoming and inviting.”
Alec said he is excited about Peepers moving into worldwide distribution and currently undergoing the process of certification in Europe. But, his outlook on “his own backyard” is positive and inspiring as well.
“We have a beautiful town and momentum is on our side,” he said. “You can almost feel the ground swelling with excitement with all the enhancements and investments the town has been able to accomplish in a short period of time. The double track is something we’re particularly excited about as it gives people the opportunity to commute to Michigan City and live in Chicago or vice versa. In terms of Sammann Company, we built this location in 1972 and underwent a major remodel in 2016. We’re a unique business for Michigan City in the essence we’re not heavy industry, but more a fashion-based company.”
Peepers supports the local community in a number of ways including every team member volunteering to ring bells at Al’s Supermarket for The Salvation Army in Michigan City and the Peepers for Teachers initiative to help local schools.
“Peepers for Teachers started out as a social media campaign where we could have our followers nominate schools to receive a donation of Peepers for the entire teaching staff. We are ready to take this to the next level and make an impact in our local community. The program is in beginning stages – but with big plans! The check is going to be used to start our fund for this program where we will be doing numerous things for our teachers and schools where we will be making monetary contributions as well as each employee at Peepers can give time to assist as a helping hand. We will be starting a fund with the Unity Foundation and working closely with advisors so we’re specific with the use of our funds and can report back to our customers who share our excitement for helping teachers prepare our future!”
“We are also in contact with local teachers and administration to find out where the need is most and where we can have the most beneficial impact,” Alec further explained. “In addition, to keep the program running and funded we will be launching a special collection on our website where ten percent of proceeds from the particular styles in the collection will be donated to the fund.”
Peepers may be reached at (800) 348-2508 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information on this business, go to www.peepers.com or look up “Peepers Reading Glasses” on Facebook.