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A class act

Posted: July 3rd, 2015 | Features, Top Story | 1 Comment

By Morgan M. Hurley | Editor

Local sunglass manufacturer’s philanthropy empowers kids

When East Coast native Adam Moyer first became a regular on the beaches of San Diego nearly a decade and a half ago while studying for his master’s degree in fine art at UC San Diego, he realized that he — and his friends — had a dire need for sunglasses all year round.

Moyer found himself going through pair after pair and soon began buying in bulk, which gave him an idea: Why not create his own?

Taken from a familiar term his father used for “old, reliable clothes that could take a beating,” Knockaround Sunglasses, LLC was launched while Moyer was still a grad student at UCSD. He began producing a line of practicable and affordable, but stylish and sturdy sunglasses out of his personal art studio.

Adam “Ace” Moyer, founder and CEO of Knockaround Sunglasses, surrounded by Foster Elementary School students wearing the winning “Striker” design, by Evan Bui (right of sign). (Photo by Mr. Bui)

Adam “Ace” Moyer, founder and CEO of Knockaround Sunglasses, surrounded by Foster Elementary School students wearing the winning “Striker” design, by Evan Bui (right of sign). (Photo by Mr. Bui)

According to the Knockaround website, Moyer created a style all his own.

“Merging the classic East Coast prep style of his Virginia upbringing, his interest in design and fashion, and a newfound love for the perpetually sunny, laid-back lifestyle of Southern California, [Moyer] created a company centered around a sunglasses line that was simultaneously practical and stylish.”

The standard Knockaround model is a Wayfarer-style frame, but then new models, alternative frame styles, an expansion in the variety of color choices, differing lens options and even a line of accessories, soon followed. Today Knockaround offers 10 select models with over 100 styles of sunglasses, and that doesn’t include the countless custom and limited-edition models they create.

Ten years after opening, Knockaround not only operates out of a large warehouse at 2031 Commercial St., Downtown, with a fun, laid-back Silicon Valley-style culture, they have become so successful they juggle a number of philanthropic projects at any given time.

“Knockaround has always been, from the beginning, a very positive, optimistic, all-inclusive, feel-good brand intended to be a part of your feel-good moments,” said Tony Martinez, Knockaround’s marketing manager.

Evan Bui works on his winning design (Courtesy Knockaround)

Evan Bui works on his winning design
(Courtesy Knockaround)

In addition, on July 22, they will be handing out 20,000 pairs of Knockaround’s “Fort Knocks” model sunglasses — a $30 value and renamed “Friarknocks” for the giveaway — to fans walking through the turnstiles at the San Diego Padres game, and this is their fourth year of doing so.

“’Friarknocks’ is the name that we’ve casually given the sunglasses that we do for the Padres giveaway each year,” Martinez said. “It started out as a hashtag we used for our second-year giveaway, and every year we try to design a new set of ‘Friarknocks.’ We’ve come across a lot of fans that have two or more of our giveaways, and it’s exciting for them to collect and look forward to the next one.”

This year their “Friarknocks” sunglasses will come in the infamous 1984 Padres colors and each pair will come with a special Padres version of Knockaround’s custom Knocchi strap — another $6 value.

They also upped their game with the Padres this year by offering to be a sponsor at seven College Nights at Petco Park during the team’s home season, three of which are still left; July 23, Sept. 3 and Sept. 24. On those nights, Knockaround staff can be found operating a photo booth up on the Budweiser deck and giving out even more sunglasses to students who come through the booth.

Giving back, Martinez said, has always been an important aspect of Knockaround’s business model. Three years ago they decided to work with underserved children and came across ArtReach, a Little Italy-based nonprofit that provides art classes to Title One schools throughout San Diego County that do not have a budget or other resources for any type of art instruction.

“These are the most generous young people I’ve ever met,” said Judy Berman Silbert, executive director of ArtReach, referring to Moyer and his Knockaround staff. “They are a very small, tight team and very hardworking but it’s like family there.”

Knockaround calls their relationship with ArtReach the “Class Acts” project. Each year they go into elementary schools and teach fourth- and fifth-graders about art and design.

“Kids aren’t aware of what design is — especially with the current focus on STEAM [science, technology, engineering, agriculture, mathematics],” Berman Silbert said. “We try to get kids to pay attention to things around them and realize that everything was designed, somebody drew it. Adam told the students that Petco started as a drawing and then it was a model, and now it is a baseball stadium. We want to get kids to think not just about the sunglasses, but how they were made.”

After the presentation, students are given a worksheet with an outline of the Knockaround sunglass frame and told to design their own pair of sunglasses. The winning design gets manufactured into a real line of sunglasses and is then sold as a fundraising event; with proceeds going back to the schools and ArtReach.

College students at a recent College Night at Petco Park visit the Knockaround photo booth (Courtesy Knockaround)

College students at a recent College Night at Petco Park visit the Knockaround photo booth
(Courtesy Knockaround)

“Art is a very significant part of Adam’s and Knockaround’s background, and the idea of contributing to elementary school art programs so that kids are given the same artistic opportunities that Adam and others were given is extremely important to Knockaround,” Martinez said. “Our Class Acts program is something that we intend on doing every year, with the hopes that we can continue to grow its reach and contribution.”

This year 316 students from three schools — Foster Elementary in Allied Gardens, Monarch Downtown and Jefferson in North Park — submitted designs through the program.

The winning design, called “Striker,” was submitted by Evan Bui of Foster Elementary. During the fundraising period, the Striker custom sunglasses sold 943 units. Knockaround’s goal was 1,200.

Berman Silbert said last year that Knockabout donated $8,000 back from the program to Art Reach and this year because of record sales during the fundraiser, they are poised to get much more.

“For me it was about opening the kids’ eyes [about how all things start with a design] — and the joy they got from being involved and the generosity of Knockaround,” Berman Silbert said.

Martinez said the company’s tenth year is being called “a decade of Knocks” and they are involving themselves with projects that combine things they’ve learned over the last decade, culminating with a big anniversary bash in October.

Kids from Foster Elementary with Evan Bui's winning design "Striker" along with Judy Berman Silbert of (far left) and Adam Moyer (center) (Courtesy Knockaround)

Kids from Foster Elementary with Evan Bui’s winning design “Striker” along with Judy Berman Silbert (far left) of Art Reach and Adam Moyer, founder and CEO of Knockaround (center) (Photo by Scottphoto.com)

“We also have a couple collaborations coming towards the end of 2015 that we are really excited about,” Martinez said. “We don’t necessarily want to spill the beans but one we’re working on is something we appreciate in terms of craft and suds — being a San Diego-based brand, the craft beer industry is a very genuine, natural fit for us. So look out for a collaboration with one of San Diego’s pioneers in the craft beer movement.”

Sounds like the staff will be “knocking back” another project soon.

For more information about Knockaround Sunglasses, visit knockaround.com. To learn more about Art Reach, visit artreachsandiego.org.

— Morgan M. Hurley can be reached at morgan@sdcnn.com.

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