Arnheim & Sons
Arnheim & Sons Optical, Inc., is in its fourth generation. The fraternal twins Eugene and Paul Arnheim took the business over from their father Chaim, who had learned the craft of lensmaking from his father and grandfather in Amsterdam. Having fled the Nazis, Chaim reopened the firm in Chicago in 1938, and it now operates in two floors of a building on North Avenue just west of Damen. His sons greatly expanded the business, and eventually came to supply many of the lenses for such large firms as For Eyes and Lenscrafters. Spinoza was a lens grinder, Chaim told his sons, emphasizing the historical tradition and honorableness of the work. He kept a large portrait in oil of the philosopher in his office. After their father’s death, Eugene and Paul commissioned a portrait of Chaim Arnheim, which they hung next to that of Spinoza in the same office, which they came to share. They occupied, between them, a large antique partners desk acquired from an antique dealer on Wells Street and at which they worked, facing each other.
For as far back as either could remember, the twins were never in the least rivalrous. They felt themselves lucky to have each other’s full-time company and support. Their talents and temperaments were different. Eugene was an exceptional athlete during his high school years and somewhat introverted; Paul was more attractive to women and more outgoing generally. Knowing they were destined for their father’s business, neither took education all that seriously.
About the Author
Joseph Epstein’s latest collection is The Love Song of A. Jerome Minkoff and Other Stories, many of which were first published in this magazine. His essay on boredom appeared in last month’s issue.