VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Thanks to COVID-19, doors are closed for many businesses, forcing some to think outside the box. That's what one Virginia Beach company is doing to keep itself from laying off workers and joining the fight against the coronavirus at the same time.
North End Bag Company is known for their handmade leather and fabric bags that go for a few hundred dollars, but they are now finding a tremendous demand to be making something else - facial coverings. Owner Aaron McLellan explains how it all started.
"Me and my cousin who owns a local business in Norfolk just decided to make a few hundred masks and donate them. And so we had posted it on Instagram and some people reached out from Sentara, and so we said, 'Of course; we'd love to donate to you.'"
McLellan says the response was overwhelming.
"After that, I've been flooded with emails, phone calls, messages on Instagram. Everybody - the community's been asking for masks!" he said.
He admits there was an adjustment from making bags to making masks.
"Our machines are pretty heavy duty. If you've seen any of our products, they're all heavy canvas and leather, so we bought a couple of machines for lightweight material, and we just started doing research on what kind of masks are the best. We decided to do the tie masks because you can adjust them better and really crank them down and get them nice and flush up on the sides of your face," McLellan explained.
In addition to the 200 he and his team made for Sentara, they're also working on 1,000 for Chanello's Pizza.
McLellan says in time of businesses struggling to stay afloat, he appreciates any form of revenue.
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"So, yes, it is helping it really is helping and we haven't had to let anyone go."
So, what is it like making something that potentially is helping stop the spread of COVID-19?
"It's a really cool feeling! So, it's great to make a really high-quality bag that you feel can last a long time, but it's a totally different feeling and I don't think I've every been so proud to be able to sew and have the skills to sew as I am right now. To give a product to someone who's really in need is an amazing feeling."
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Even though the retail side of the business is closed, they are still selling bags online along with the masks and doing curbside pickup. The masks are 100% cotton, reusable and cost $10. For more information on how to order, click here.