NORFOLK, Va. - Products from Norva Plastics have graced exhibits inside the Chrysler Museum of Art and flown to space with NASA Langley Research Center.
But for the last year, the 82-year-old business has been churning out shield after shield with local schools as the biggest customers.
"Never did we ever think that it would get as large as it did," said Norva Plastics' longtime owner Howard Everton.
Overton says after creating plastic shields for medical offices to protect from the spread of germs during the COVID-19 pandemic, word of the shields quickly spread to local school divisions getting ready to bring some students back to the classroom.
By last summer and fall, Norva Plastics was slammed with orders from Old Dominion University just a few blocks away, Virginia Beach City Public Schools and more.
"You could never have enough of them. It was incredible and if we could have gotten our hands on more material, we could've produced more," said Everton.
The company allowed News 3 into the production facility to see the manufacturing process, which is fairly simple: Measurements are entered into a computer and a machine carves the shield from the acrylic material. Protective paper stays on as long as possible.
Everton says it takes roughly 5-10 minutes to produce one shield, but when thousands are coming off the line, it can be overwhelming for the team of roughly 15.
"The first go around, the pressure was tremendous. Everyone needed them yesterday. Now hopefully on the second time around, if there is, it'll be a whole lot more structured and not as huge an event as what it's been in the past," he told News 3.
According to Everton, Norva Plastics has received more than 100 orders for shields from local schools ahead of the coming year. With COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations once again on the rise, it's unclear how many more orders will come in.
Everton admits he doesn't like shields being such a large portion of his business, but he finds at least some comfort in knowing that if local schools are looking for help, they're finding it from a locally-owned business.
"That's the only gratifying part of it all, to be honest with you," he said. "If we weren't here supplying, they would have to get it from a national and have it shipped in. [Shields are] not what our core business is. It just has twisted that way."
For how much longer? Who knows?