Personalization Decorators Shift Business in Response to COVID-19

As the need to help fight COVID-19 goes on, decoration businesses are stepping up.

As more cities, states, and countries widen the requirement of wearing face masks in public places, and as those working in hospitals and other essential workers’ supplies dwindle down, the need for items to help fight COVID-19 increases.

Individuals and groups of people all over the world are chipping into the contribution of face masks and other items to assist in some way or another. Some of those helping include trophy shops and decorators who are shifting their business to accommodate for the cause.

Many recognition and customization businesses have seen a decline in certain sales due to the cancellation of springtime events as a result of COVID-19 and shelter-in-places laws. As a result, they’ve had to shift gears.

Bob Hagel, A&E columnist and owner of Eagle’s Mark, reports that the California lockdown is impacting the volume of his business by an approximate 90% reduction. With a closed showroom and meeting with customers by appointment only, Hagel and his staff go into the shop to do production when needed, which is two to three times a week.

Mostly, he says, they have been engraving urns, producing military items, electrical and solar projects, name badges for healthcare businesses, and some awards. He expects this to be their normal week well into June, with business picking up little-by-little after that.

“As the pandemic lets up in the summer, we are expecting a lot of orders related to recognition of healthcare workers, police and fire, and the many other jobs that have been on the front line,” Hagel predicts. Many non-profits will also have groups to thank and recognize for the generosity being shown by businesses of all sizes and the many individuals willing to help out and donate, he adds.

“I also believe both kids and adult sports will come back strong as many people will be anxious to get outside, get exercise, and have a semblance of normalcy,” he continues. “I believe orders related to these (and other) events will come back slowly over time.”

In the meantime, shops experiencing this same sort of impact are coming up with ways to keep their lasers, printers, and other equipment busy.

Editor’s note: This is an ongoing story. If your business is taking part in the cause, or you have come up with your own creative way to stay positive during these uncertain times, please contact us here

Updates as of April 21

Inkwell Designers, a studio in Woodstock, Georgia that specializes in calligraphy, embossing, engraving, and more, is keeping its lasers busy creating flexible s-hooks for the medical community. Inkwell CEO Desiree Colonna explains that they use flexible acrylic rather than rigid, since the first hook they tested with that material snapped in half when testing it.

“We wanted to do our part, so we took a look at how others were being made,” Colonna states. “We first tried 1/8″ acrylic but found they broke in a short period of time and weren’t comfortable due to the medical mask hooks being inflexible. Experimenting with a new material, lucent translucent acrylic, we saw the difference immediately.”

The studio is donating one hook for every one purchased, and 100% of donations are used to buy materials to make more. According to Colonna, over 3,500 hooks have been donated to local hospitals so far.

Delphi, Indiana-based Hometown Shirts & Graphix is also using this time to craft clips to ease essential workers’ ears. “We had a nurse contact us to make a shirt from Utah. We got talking about everything, and she just said that her ears were hurting really bad,” says Hometown Shirts owner Tricia Mendel. “We thought, that’s one thing we can help with.”

Along with the clips, Hometown Shirts is fabricating hooks to open doors and touch keypads with as well as T-shirts and other items designed with nurses in mind.

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As of April 20th, the shop has created over 20,000 of these clips for hospitals, individuals, jail facilities, factories, and more. Mendel explains that they originally planned to only make a few hundred. “We have no idea when we are going to able to open back up, so we’re donating these, but I don’t know how long we’ll able to keep doing it,” she says, as they are unsure if they will get any government funding.

What Mendel mentions may be true for several other small shops. As many want to help, finding the resources can be tough while also trying to stay in business.

TAP Creative, a recently launched laser engraving business owned by Tim Pucillo, shifted what it planned to start off with (i.e. tumblers, cutting, boards, ornaments, etc.) to laser cut and 3-D print face shields for hospitals and other local organizations in Waupaca, Wisconsin. He discovered the need to create the shields from his wife, who is a physician at the hospital.

“I wanted to do what I could to help out,” states Pucillo. “I can’t sew masks, but not a lot of people around here have a laser, so I thought it was something I can do. I have a 3-D printer so that helps too.”

In the past month, Pucillo has made a little over a hundred shields and plans to continue making them.

(Image courtesy Hometown Shirts & Graphix)

Updates as of April 8

Winterville, North Carolina-based Simple & Sentimental, a shop that primarily sells wedding gifts and décor, says there has been a decline in sales due to the cancellation and postponements of weddings. Owner Taylor Walden tells A&E that making and donating face shields has given them an opportunity to stay busy and give back to their community during the crisis.

After seeing a post in a Facebook group for people with laser engravers on creating face shields for local hospitals, Walden says they started sourcing materials and creating a prototype to do the same. The shop also started a GoFundMe to fundraise and cover the cost of supplies.

“I truly never thought we would use our laser for something like this,” states Walden. “We have the machinery and resources to make a huge impact in the lives of medical personnel caring for COVID-19 patients, and it feels great to know that we are helping them protect themselves.”

According to Walden, people have driven hours to pick up donations of face shields, and hospitals from all around have reached out. “The stories and thanks we have heard from nurses and doctors really reaffirm that we are doing the right thing,” she adds. With more being made each day, Simple & Sentimental has produced and donated close to 1,500 face shields.

Ben Fielder, owner of FiddleSticks, was also looking for ways to assist others with his laser, since sales have declined at the three local businesses he sells at in Hiawatha, Iowa. When he came across a post discussing face mask clips in a laser engraving group on Facebook, he says he instantly realized this was something he could mass-produce for the community.

“Half of my customer base is direct-to-consumer — these consumers include first responders, nurses, doctors, and other essential workers,” Fielder explains. “These people decided to help me by purchasing my products, sharing my content on social media, or telling their friends about FiddleSticks. It is now my opportunity to thank them and pay it forward.”

Initially, he provided them for anyone who messaged him on Facebook; however, Fielder has now focused in on larger medical facilities, fire and police stations, and to those sewing and mass-producing face masks. He expects to reach 5,000 clips created in the weeks to come and will continue to make them as needed for his community.

In appreciation for its local medical center, Signs By Crown, a division of Crown Trophy of Flemington, New Jersey, is making lawn signs and raising money to provide meals for the nurses, doctors, and support personnel. Owner Jim Gano says he started the initiative to thank medical professionals during the pandemic. The lawn signs are being placed along the driveway of the hospital for staff to see as they arrive for their shift. For every sign purchased, part of the proceeds will be donated to the Hunterdon Medical Center Foundation.

“We have to take care of those who take care of us, and hopefully this program can help do that,” states Gano. He is also looking for local businesses to join the initiative, which he hopes to expand into other towns and hospitals around the state. (To inquire on that, please email jim@crowntrophy152.com or call 908-782-1476.)

Since starting to make the lawn signs, Gano says he received an order from a local business to create a large banner facing the hospital to encourage patients to keep fighting.

signs pic at hmc

(Image courtesy Jim Gano)

As the pandemic continues to impact each corner of the world and social distancing remains as the theme, recognition and customization businesses will find more ways to pivot business and support those in need. Whether using a laser to cut out materials for face masks, producing uplifting signage, or even sublimating covers for face masks, there are several options to give back.

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Julia Schroeder

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