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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Nov. 28, 2014

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The future's so bright the deputy mayor of Milwaukee has to wear shades.
The future's so bright the deputy mayor of Milwaukee has to wear shades.

The man in white wants to sell you shades

Today, I posted an article about a man who wears all orange. Coincidentally, I also interviewed a man this week who dresses entirely in white.

Bob Okpara sells sunglasses from his wooden cart on Wisconsin Avenue during the week and near Bradford Beach on the weekends. 

He started his business in the late ‘80s after receiving a masters degree in industrial technology from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. He was born in Nigeria but came to the United States to attend undergraduate school in Eugene, Ore.

"I’m also the deputy mayor of Milwaukee," says Okpara.

The cart was made in Colorado and Okpara added large drawers to accommodate his extra stock.

A large painted sign reads $2, but the sunglasses range from $2 to $10. He wouldn't reveal where the sunglasses come from, but he did admit that he routinely rotates out certain styles for up to 10 years because they eventually come back in fashion.

"These were ‘Miami Vice’ glasses in the ‘80s and now they are popular again," he says, gesturing to some Don Johnson-esque shades.

Okpara wears white every day – including white sunglasses – so he stands out. He says he has 10 white suits.

In the ‘80s, Okpara lived in the Brady Street area but today lives on the North Side. He transports his sunglasses cart to and from Downtown and the lakefront via a trailer that’s hitched to his vehicle.

He had parked the car and trailer at a lot on 4th and Cherry Street for more than 25 years without issue, but two weeks ago, someone stole his trailer and he was forced to buy a new one and find a new, safer parking spot.

The new parking space is further away and forced him to be late for work.

"I like to get here by 11, otherwise people have to wait for their sunglasses," he says.

Okpara, who plows snow in the winter months, says his sunglasses cart isn’t too heavy or cumbersome. 

"Not when you have muscles like these," he says, flexing and laughing. "I figure when I can’t push the cart up the curb anymore, that’s when I know it's time to retire."

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