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CHATTER: The pivot to the mask trade (Apr. 2021)

May 12th, 2021 · No Comments

Stores like David Dunkley Fine Millinery at 974 Bathurst St. have successfully re-tooled to make protective masks for their customers.

Rainbows, sparkles and onesies, it turns out, are no match for a global pandemic. That’s what Lien Nguyen and her business partner found out after COVID-19 forced numerous strategic pivots just to stay alive. Their enterprise, the Unicorn Café, opened up in January of 2020 at 561 Bloor Street W., and attempted to continue running via Uber Eats. Like many businesses, the Unicorn Café entered the mask trade and in that, found some hope.

“Because our theme is designed for families with kids, we had to find something to meet their needs,” says Nguyen. “So we decided to sell masks for kids through our storefront window. If people need the masks, we will keep making them.”

David Dunkley Fine Millinery, a unique store which sells handmade hats and headpieces, has also transitioned to selling masks. 

“Masks for me was a very logical transition,” said Dunkley. “I had the fabrics, I had the skill, and it’s something that is similar to all the other work I do.”

Dunkley’s masks are all handmade and offer unique features. As a person who wears glasses, he was motivated to create a mask that does not fog up the lenses and was successful in creating one with three layers of protection. He also created masks for a wedding, working with unique fabrics like lace. He has also focused on creating masks that are comfortable for men. 

“Surprisingly, many gentlemen with beards found it really hard to find a mask that fit snugly. So, I also created a pattern that would fit over a beard,” Dunkley said. “But, hopefully, we don’t need them in the future.”

He adds that, for him, profit was not a major motivator.

“Masks have saved my mental health. They gave me a purpose, a reason to come into the shop and do something, because what I did was no longer needed,” said Dunkley. 

—Mary An/Gleaner News

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