LONE TREE, Colo. (AP) – Darcy Velasquez, 42, and his mother, Roberta Truax, were recently walking the Park Meadows mall about 15 miles south of downtown Denver, looking for Christmas presents for Velasquez’s two children, when they found a store with a display of rhinestone masks. .
This is an unchanging reality of fashion: Sparkles can be as far away as a 9 year old.
The store is called COVID-19 Essentials. And it may be the country’s first retail chain focused solely on an infectious disease, Kaiser Health News reports.
With many U.S. stores closing during the pandemic coronavirus, especially within malls, the owners of this chain are trapped in empty space, as well as the world’s growing acceptance of wear of masks is a fact that can last until 2021, if not longer. Masks have evolved from a useful, any-you-can-find-functioning product to another way to express a personality, political passions or sports fandom.
And the owners of COVID-19 Essentials bet that Americans are willing to put their money where their mouth is. Prices range from $ 19.99 for a simple children’s mask to $ 130 for the top mask, with an N95 filter and a battery-powered fan.
Almost all stores and many pop-up kiosks in the Park Meadows mall are now selling masks. But COVID-19 Essentials also carries other accessories for the pandemic, in a space with a more stable feel than a holiday pop-up store; the permanent signage above the glass doors includes a stylized image of a coronavirus particle.
Standing next to the UNTUCKit shirt store and opposite a Tesla showroom, it has no brand recognition or track record of a JC Penney. But longevity does not seem to have helped the clothing chain or many others who escaped the industrial turmoil during the pandemic. According to analysts at S&P Global Market Intelligence, retail losses from January to mid-August reached a 10-year high.
Owners of COVID-19 Essentials do not want products to be in demand forever.
“I can’t wait to leave the business later,” said Nadav Benimetzky, a Miami retailer who founded COVID-19 Essentials, which now has eight locations nationwide.
That seems to be the behavior of most customers who walked into the store on a recent Friday afternoon. Most understand the need for masks – the masks needed to enter the mall – and so they identified the business case for a COVID-19 store. However, they expect the masks to soon go to bell-bottoms or leg warmers. So far, they are doing the best situation.
Nathan Chen, who owns the Lone Tree store with Benimetzky, previously ran another store at Denver airport, but with the decline of air travel, a COVID-focused business seemed a better venture. The pandemic giveth and the pandemic take away.
Benimetzky opened the first COVID-19 Essentials store at Aventura Mall in suburban Miami after seeing the need for N95 masks early in the pandemic. “They are ugly and uncomfortable, and everyone hates them,” he said. “I piggybacked there. If you wear a mask, you can also make it stylish and beautiful.”
That could mean a sequin or satin mask for a more formal occasion, or the toothy grin of a skull mask for casual activities. Some masks have zippers to make food easier, or a hole for a straw, with a Velcro closure if the cup is sucked dry.
The chain has locations in New York City, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Las Vegas, and is looking to open stores in California, where wildfires are only added to the need for masks.
At first, the owners were really unsure that the idea would fly. They opened the first store as malls opened following lockdowns.
“We didn’t really understand how much it would take,” Benimetzky said. “We didn’t get it with the idea of opening a lot of stores. But we’ve been busy since our second opening.”
Nancy Caeti, 76, stopped at a Lone Tree store to buy a mask for her grandchildren. She bought one of a clear panel for her granddaughter, whose sign language instructor needed to see the movement of her lips. He bought his daughter, a music teacher and fan of the Denver Broncos, a mask with the football team logo.
“I survived the polio epidemic,” Caeti said, as her hand with a latex-gloved hand inserted her credit card into the card reader. “It reminds me of that, but I don’t think it’s bad.” He recalled how his mother and siblings forced him to get the polio vaccine, and said he was the first to line up for a COVID shot.
That is probably an important non-storey item. These are hawks keylike devices for opening doors and pressing elevator buttons without touching them. Some have a built-in bottle opener. There are ultraviolet-light devices for disinfecting phones and upscale hand sanitizer that spray employees on customers as if they were a sample of department store perfume.
But masks are the biggest draw. The store can personalize them with rhinestone letters or the kind of iron-on patches that teenagers used to wear on their jeans.
Upon entering, customers can check their temperature using a digital forehead scanner with audible directions: “Step closer. Step closer. Normal temperature. The temperature is normal. “
The store also added a sink near the entrance so customers can wash their hands before handling merchandise.
Some mallgoers are walking next to the store in confusion, stopping to take pictures to post on social media with a joking message. An older white couple in matching masks noticed a mask emblazoned with the slogan “Black Lives Matter” on the display on the storefront, and walked away disgusted.
The store does not take political sides; there are three designs of President Donald Trump’s campaign masks, two for Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden. A woman, who declined to give her name, came in wearing a mask under her nose and wondered if a Trump mask would fit her little face. Trump masks are among the most popular sellers, Chen said, so he hid them in a larger cabinet to accommodate excess stock. It is unclear whether this will review election results, as some position on Halloween mask sales.
Daniel Gurule, 31, stopped at the mall during his lunch hour to pick up an Apple Watch but jumped into the store for a new mask. He said he normally wears a vented mask but not all places allow them. (They protect users but not the people around them.) He bought a $ 24.99 mask with the Denver Nuggets basketball team logo.
“It takes away a bit of our personalities when everyone is walking around with disposable masks,” Chen said. “It’s like a hospital, like everyone is sick.”
Most masks are specifically sewn for the chain, including many by hand. One of their suppliers is a family of Vietnamese immigrants who sew masks at their home in Los Angeles, Benimetzky said. Chen said it is difficult to keep masks in stock, and every day some other designs seem to be their best sellers.
Dorothy Lovett, 80, paused outside the store, leaning on a cane with an animal print design.
“I have to back up and say,‘ What is this? ’” He said. “I’ve never seen a mask shop before.”
By MARKIAN HAWRYLUK
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