CLEVELAND — Cloth face masks have been in high demand since the early days of the pandemic and now that demand is sure to climb even higher with mask mandates in several major Ohio cities, including Cleveland.
Yellowcake Shop Clothing Company in Cleveland has been working to meet that need for several weeks now. The shop shifted its focus from clothing to mask-making several weeks ago when the pandemic started.
“It provides a product that people require right now and I think we just want to make it's easy for the community to say 'yes' to being safe. That's our primary goal and reason for doing this,” said Valerie Mayen, owner and founder of Yellowcake Shop Clothing Company.
The shop started out making just a basic white, cotton mask. Then, they added nose wires, different colors and patterns, masks for kids, ones with ventilator valves, and even ones made for dolls.
“Then by accident, we made doll masks and those were really, widely acceptable and people got crazy about them. People got really excited about those. So it's really developed and taken a whole new level of inspiration, I guess I could say,” Mayen said.
Mayen said to date they’ve handmade 30,000 masks. At the peak of their mask-masking, their staff of sewers increased from five to 35.
“Our secondary goal, honestly was because we knew that our sewers needed work, and when corona hit, and all of our retail events were canceled. Financially, we were doing okay but we knew that we needed to figure out a way to keep providing income and work for our sewers. And when it first started it was a slow burn and then it just blew up, and we went from five sewers to 35 sewers, and so at the peak of our mask making we had 35 men and women working safely from their homes earning income for their families,” Mayen said.
The masks are for sale on their website, but they’ve also been donating them through their “buy one, donate one” match program. When someone buys a mask on their website, Yellowcake then donates a mask to an organization or person in need.
Mayen said they’ve also provided masks for the entire fleet of RTA employees, employees at all of Dave’s Supermarkets, and 8,500 masks for all of Lutheran Ministries’ homeless shelters.
“Our motivation is really just to do our part. When we first started making the masks, initially we were just going to make 500, just to donate, and we were going to use our own funding, but Clevelanders really wanted to get behind us and everyone I think wanted to do their part to support how they could and where they could. So we ended up making way more than we anticipated,” Mayen said.
Yellowcake even has a face mask vending machine set up inside the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland.
“It has a good portion of our standard masks, our kids size masks, our fun printed masks, our sequin masks, even. And we also have bottles of hand sanitizer. We have door openers so that you can open doors hands free or use them at the ATM or the gas station. We also have shoelaces in there so that you can convert your mask to a tie back option,” Mayen said. “So there's plenty of options in there and the prices in our vending machine are actually a little bit lower than our website prices so that it's more accommodating for everyone in the community.”
Mayen said the LGBT Community Center also gets a portion of the proceeds from the vending machine, which helps to support their programs.
Yellowcake is also looking into partnering with the airport to get some PPE vending machines in there as well.
“Hopefully that will also encourage travelers to support local, wear handmade masks. That way the disposable masks are kept at bay. We do provide the disposable mask options for people that can't afford the handmade masks. But we really like to encourage handmade when possible because they're reusable, they're machine washable and they're just better for the environment,” Mayen said.
Mayen said the company is still focusing on mask-making but slowly starting to transition back into making clothing.
“We are developing some new clothing pieces to accommodate our clientele and the positions they find themselves in now that the traditional office setting has—I wouldn't say it's obsolete but it definitely is shifting. So we're shifting as well,” Mayen said.
Yellowcake offers a portion of its sales from its t-shirts and sweatshirts to the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.
To visit Yellowcake's website, click here.
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