West Duluth Sewing and Design Selling Handmade Masks to Stay Afloat

The sewing and alterations business is selling masks for $6, the only business they are getting right now with proms and weddings cancelled.

DULUTH, Minn.- At first, West Duluth Sewing and Design’s foray into making masks started with a donation. Now it’s their only real income, with cancelled proms and weddings slowing business.

A nursing home in Moose Lake asked the owners, Jeaneth and Harold Deterling, to make and donate about 50 masks a week, being paid just for materials.

“She asked me if I wanted to donate it and stuff like that,” said Jeaneth. “I said just pay me for my garters because now elastic is really hard to get.”

But as CDC guidelines changed, demand grew.

“And then people started asking me ‘where should I get the masks?’ and my friends were kind of asking me and I said ‘oh, ok.’ Then I start selling them for six bucks,” she said.

The masks are all constructed by hand by the couple. “This mask has [a] pocket in it too, you can put either a coffee filter or a Kleenex or paper towel, then wash them,” she said, stitching the sides of the mask at her sewing machine.

“Six bucks is not really a lot of money but [I] have to do what I can.”

While it isn’t much, selling the masks for six dollars brings in some necessary income, since their best seller, Prom, is cancelled due to COVID-19.

“I bet a lot of the girls are really kind of bummed about that,” said Jeaneth. “I’m sad.”

Business has been slow since proms, and weddings, have been nixed. “Normally we’re doing, what, 10, 15 dresses a week. And we’re at zero,” husband and co-owner Harold said.

But the whirring of sewing machines still fills the small shop, as they’ve been busy making the protective equipment.

“If it weren’t for these masks last week we would’ve made $8.00. The masks help to pay the bills but that’s not quite even enough to pay the bills, but it helps. Rather than going into our emergency fund,” he said.

To get a mask you can call ahead or come to the shop on Grand Avenue. They’ll unlock the door and let you in.

So far, the Deterlings said, they will keep making masks until they’re not needed anymore. “[It’s] helping a little bit, but I don’t know how I’m going to make it this year, if the mask is done,” Jeaneth said.

Until then, they say all they can do is keep putting that needle to good use, as they hang by a loose thread. “Nothing to make a ton of money on, it’s just to survive,” said Harold. “That’s just what we’re trying to do is survive, and help people.”

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