As COVID-19 continues to be a significant concern and governors across the U.S. announce stay-at-home orders, shops in the apparel decorating industry are doing everything they can to help healthcare workers and those fighting the disease.
In Warwick, Rhode Island, Oceanside Graphics’ regular operations are at a halt. However, owner Justin Gontarek is using printing equipment to manufacture face shields for medical workers in need—locally and nationally.
Gontarek tells Printwear that he’s partnered with Daniel McKee, lieutenant governor of Rhode Island, to come up with ways to keep his shop’s doors open.
Oceanside Graphics got involved with this face shield initiative after someone inquired about printed shields, along with a photo example. Once receiving the request, Gontarek realized it was possible with the shop’s equipment.
“We are selling them to any corporation or hospital in need, and we are also donating to those that need them as well,” says Gontarek. “We are trying to keep our doors open, and this was a way for us to do that. We are not making tons of money—basically, enough to keep our workers employed and overhead covered.”
As far as the process, Gontarek breaks it down: “We are melting FDA-approved plastics in our screen printing dryer, and we used our CNC machine to make a jig to mold the plastic to a curved shape.” Oceanside is sourcing materials from a local supplier it usually uses to get sign equipment. Gontarek says the supplies has been great about getting Oceanside set up with the right materials.
Additionally, Oceanside and a group of other small businesses, with the help of the Rhode Island lieutenant governer’s office, rolled out www.rismallbusiness.org to support local businesses during this time. On the website’s homepage lets users “gift it forward,” and provides a list of local small businesses that are selling gift cards or taking donations. Within one week of its launch, 500 local companies registered to sign up and be featured.
Gontarek says the new site has helped create momentum, along with local media and communities. He adds, “Since we launched it, it’s skyrocketed the goodwill in our area, and we’ve found a way to connect the consumers to the businesses via a web platform.”
So far, Oceanside has sent out 250 face shields in the last three days and plans to have about 2,000 more in the next few days. The shop is working on large national orders nearing 26,000 masks.
“It’s an amazing experience, and we are so grateful for the opportunity,” says Gontarek. “A few days after we launched, I saw Bayside making stuff, and it would be amazing to partner with them on their efforts and ours. I think we could make a real difference in helping the medical field!”
For more information, visit the online store at www.squareup.com/store/oceanside-graphics-ri-llc.