CHICAGO — An Avondale-based, family-owned company that makes high-end bedding and home furnishings has shifted its operations to make cloth face masks for essential workers and others in need.
Eastern Accents, 4201 W. Belmont Ave., has about 50 employees making 1,000 masks a day, according to operations manager Deniz Tatargil.
The vast majority of those masks are being donated to hospitals, police departments, fire departments and other essential institutions.
To keep the operation going, the company is selling some of the masks online to the general public: one for $14, two for $28, four for $58 and eight for $99. The sets of four and eight qualify for free shipping.
“If you get it from here, that purchase enables us to continue to making free masks for the really desperate institutions that are on the front lines of everything,” Tatargil said.
The Centers for Disease Control is now recommending the general public wear cloth masks because they “catch your droplets” and protect the people around you. They should not, however, be worn by health care workers.
Health care workers should be wearing fitted N95 and hospital grade masks, which are designed to protect them from others. For Block Club’s FAQ on masks, click here.
Eastern Accents’ masks are made with 100 percent cotton fabric — “textiles that would otherwise have become cozy blankets or throws,” according to the company’s website. They’re machine washable and reusable.
Tatargil said he and his family sprung into action when they realized there was a mask shortage throughout the country.
“This is the one thing we can do so it’s the one thing we’re going to do,” he said.
“It would be a shame if we had a factory with cutters and sewers and we just sat at home waiting out the crisis. There wasn’t a discussion about it. As soon as the shelter in place started and we saw masks were short, we were like, ‘Alright, let’s start making masks.'”
Tatargil’s mother and father started Eastern Accents out of their Fulton Market loft in 1989. For the last 15 years or so, the company has called a 250,000-square-foot Avondale warehouse home. The company is now run by the whole family: Tatargil, his father and mother and his sister.
When the coronavirus crisis struck and the family decided to stop making high-end bedding and home furnishings, they asked 50 of their 250 employees if they’d be willing to stay on to make face masks full-time.
Tatargil said some of those employees are on the payroll and others are working on a volunteer basis to keep the operation going. He said they left that decision up to the employees and that employees who couldn’t go volunteer won’t face any repercussions.
The more masks they sell to the general public, the better chance they’ll be able to keep the face mask operation going throughout the duration of the crisis, Tatargil said.
“We’re taking a pretty big loss because we’re doing it for free,” he said.
Still, Tatargil said they’re in good shape because face mask sales have been steady. He said they hope to keep that momentum going so they can help people who need it the most.
“With the mask sales, that can keep us from losing too much money until the end of the crisis,” he said.
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