SOLAR ECLIPSE meets eCommerce

By KATHY WEBBER
Photos by DAVID VINCENT

Pop-up stores have become all the rage in the modern business world because they allow businesses to market products over a short, finite period of time—usually for a specific event or as a special promotion.

DSC00130FOR ONE LOCAL COUPLE, the sky is the limit (literally) for their temporary “pop-up” eCommerce store dedicated entirely to the approaching total solar eclipse.

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon crosses between the earth and the sun, completely blocking the sun’s rays of light, casting a shadow on the earth. The moon’s penumbral shadow, which is called the path of totality, will cross the United States from West coast to East coast on Monday, August 21, for the first time in 38 years.

At the moment the moon moves in front of the sun, daytime will become night and planets and stars will become visible in the sky. This solar eclipse will last no more than a couple of minutes, but during that time when the sun’s ray of light are blocked, those in the path of totality will be able to see an unforgettable show. While memorable, observing the eclipse can also be dangerous because looking directly at the sun’s harmful UV rays can seriously damage the retinas of the eye. As a result, viewers should take precautions and wear eclipse safety glasses.

Mike and Karen Ford watched the annular solar eclipse, an eclipse of the sun in which the edge of the sun remains visible as a bright ring around the moon, in 2012, and realized that no one was selling eclipse safety glasses locally. That’s when they decided to open EclipseStuff.com.

“This is the first one to be near Topeka since 1918, so we want to make a big deal of it,” Ford said. “We are selling safety as well. You don’t want to look at it without using protection. This is a sure way to protect your eyes and still see it.”

The Fords have sold more than 6,000 pairs of protective glasses on their EclipseStuff.com website and plan to have glasses available soon in local retail stores. Cardboard safety glasses are only $3 and Eclipser HD safe solar glasses sell for $15.

DSC00070Capitalizing on the popularity of the total solar eclipse, the Fords decided to offer novelty merchandise in addition to the eclipse safety glasses. Eclipse fans can purchase t-shirts, hats, educational materials, solar eclipse maps and even a VIP bus tour package.

Because Topeka is not actually in the path of totality, the Fords are chartering air-conditioned buses that will provide rides to prime viewing locations so their eclipse customers can have a “total” eclipse experience. The $129.99 package includes round-trip travel from Topeka or Holton, catered lunch, commemorative eclipse shirt, expert guides, a commemorative booklet about the eclipse, and a pair of highquality plastic eclipse viewing safety glasses. The deadline to register for the tour is July 5.

“There will be tons of people trying to get into the line of totality,” Mike said. “It is only a short drive and people who travel with us will have a great time!”

Greatamericaneclipse.com says the penumbral shadow will first hit the West coast at approximately 10:15 a.m. PDT and will exit the East coast at 2:55 p.m. EDT. It should move through Kansas close to 1:00 p.m.

“The path of totality is about 65 miles wide and the moon will be coming through the United States at 6,000 miles per hour. The deeper into the shadow, the more you are going to see,” Ford said. “On the bus tour, we will see two minutes and 12 seconds in Horton, Kansas.”

The next total solar eclipse will not pass through Kansas again until August of 2045.

“Once you see this you are just going to be hooked!” Ford said.

The Fords plan to donate a portion of the proceeds they make to the Banner Creek Science Center and observatory in Holton, Kansas, to help with astronomy education. Karen and Mike have taught high school for more than 30 years combined. Mike is the Observatory Director at the Banner Creek Science Center and has been in astronomy for 52 years.