As Total Solar Eclipse draws near, supplies of specialized glasses are running thin

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- No one wants to miss a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Those specialized solar eclipse glasses might be the hottest items in the metro right now, and the places you can buy them are running thin, as sales of the special protective eyewear are peaking high.

That solar eclipse, which, according to astronomers, will happen next Monday, Aug. 21st, will be the first to be seen only from the continental United States since the nation was founded. NASA is among the government agencies warning against looking directly into the glare, and customers are taking heed in droves, as witnessed in the Kansas City metro's retail centers.

"We've got them over here," Shayne Reber could be heard, shouting from across his store.

Reber, who works for Event Network, manages the retail stores within Kansas City's Union Station. He says his bosses thought he'd gone crazy, until customers proved he was right to stock so many pairs of solar eclipse glasses.

On Tuesday, the lines at Reber's three cash registers were long, just as they'd been three mornings in a row. Eclipse enthusiasts are grabbing for their glasses, with only six days until the cosmic event. Reber is selling the glasses for only $2.99 per pair, and on Tuesday alone, he says he sold over 18,000 pairs.

"To me, this is kind of how it was when they released the new iPhone. Everybody's so excited about it. They're lining up. Everyone wants to look to the sky. It's a once in a lifetime experience," Reber told FOX 4 News.

The special lenses are darkened to protect the human eye from the solar eclipse's bright rays, which, according to astronomers and eye care professionals, can cause vision damage or even blindness.

"I'm trying to keep us so we can keep fulfilling these all the way up until the eclipse. I can't guarantee anything. When we run out, we do run out," Reber said.

Reber says he still has over 20,000 pairs of glasses left to sell, and during the past two weeks, he's sold over 30,000 pair. Reber says people were gathering at Union Station as early as 6 a.m. on Tuesday -- three hours before the store opened -- to buy their specs.

Meanwhile, in the Northland, the Parkville HyVee store sold the last of its supply of specialized glasses on Tuesday afternoon. Store managers at that store, as well as several other HyVee locations, told FOX 4 News, they've ordered more solar eclipse glasses, and they're hopeful they'll arrive before this weekend.

"They've kind of begun to sell exponentially faster as we get closer to the date," Scott Smith, an assistant manager at the Parkville store, said on Tuesday.

Smith says the glasses are the hottest item on his store's shelves since Kansas City Royals World Series t-shirts two years ago, and people say they have to have them, as Monday's eclipse draws closer.

"They're realizing there are a lot of retailers who don't have them. Those who do are getting a lot of action on them," Smith added.