Pioneering Vision: Brownsville’s Herman’s Optical celebrates 50 years

dfwnewsa | February 16, 2024 | 0 | East Texas News , South Texas News

Pioneering Vision: Brownsville’s Herman’s Optical celebrates 50 years

At its peak in the 1990s, Herman’s Optical had six locations in the Rio Grande Valley, in Harlingen, Brownsville, Weslaco and McAllen, selling glasses for the low price of $39.95 a pair.

Now, 50 years after getting his start at the American Optical Corp. on the fifth floor of Harlingen’s iconic nine-story building, known back then as Los Nueve Pisos, Herman Rosales says he wouldn’t change anything.

He’s perfectly content making glasses as the board-certified optician and proprietor of Herman’s Optical at Paredes Line and Price Road in Brownsville.


“Eventually I settled down, got tired of paying a whole lot of taxes and so now I just take care of Herman’s Optical at 2120 E. Price Road here in Brownsville. But I love it. I love what I do. I’m 72 now, been doing this 50 years, and I wouldn’t know what else to do with my life,” Rosales said one recent morning.

Rosales was born in Harlingen but left with his parents at age 2 to grow up in Chicago Heights, Illinois. He returned to the Valley 20 years later and naturally gravitated toward Harlingen, where he has cousins, aunts and uncles.

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In 1975, just as he was about to give up on the job market and go back to Chicago, a friend called to say American Optical was hiring.

“So I go that Monday and the guy hires me. I was so lucky,” Rosales said. He learned optics on the job by making glasses at American Optical.

“Four years I worked for them, and then I went to work for doctors, for one doctor for five years, another doctor for four years, and back then they grandfathered me in as a certified optician through the state,” he said.

Optician Herman Rosales enters data to fill a prescription for glasses at Herman’s Optical in Brownsville. (Gary Long | The Brownsville Herald)

He received American Board of Opticianry certification in Houston in the early 1990s.


By then, the second of the two doctors he worked under had given him a generous Christmas bonus, and he and a friend decided to go into business for themselves. Each put up half to start Herman’s Optical.

“There’s an ophthalmologist, an optometrist and then the optician. I’m the optician. I’m the one that fills out the prescriptions, the glasses.” Rosales said.

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As he worked, Rosales also explained that the science of making glasses boils down to mathematical formulas. Once you’ve learned them, the rest is easy, he said.

“I only know how to make glasses one way. That’s the right way. There’s no way to make ‘em wrong. We’re like a pharmacist. We follow the prescription and I’m following the prescription that the doctor prescribed … and then I’m centering the lens. It’s all specific to the patient’s eyes. That’s why we measure you, to know where your pupillary distance is at,” he said.

Rosales, strongly Catholic, was christened Herminio. That’s why the restaurant next to the optical is named Minio’s, after the last five letters of his name.

On either wall are posters, of the Beatles on one side and of the Dallas Cowboys back in the day on the other. There’s a black-and-white of downtown Chicago along Lake Michigan in the 1920s. A poster of Marilyn Monroe hangs next to another of John F. Kennedy.

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