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Businesses, groups fill need for face masks

ST. LOUIS – A month  ago, Kevin Kelly and Jason Deem had nothing to do with making medical masks. But on April 1, they started making them, at the same time they moved into a space at 2623 Cherokee St. they christened the Well Made Workshop.

Like many enterprises and individuals, Kelly and Deem suddenly found themselves in the business because of the desperate need to fill the shortage of a lifesaving item.

“We didn’t know what the desire would be,” said Kelly, who originally planned to move his design leather goods shop into the building. While Kelly and Deem still did that, the addition of the masks changed things.

A Well Made Workshop face mask
Online sales started on April 12. Kelly doesn’t know how many he’s sold, other than thousands. A portion goes to the Show Up for Cherokee Street Go Fund Me campaign to help employees and owners of restaurants, bars, and shops on the street who are out of work because of the pandemic.

“Since this is our third week in business, there’s an overwhelming amount of things to do,” Kelly said. Information about ordering is at

Jeff and Randy Vines, owners of the STL Style House T-shirt store at 3159 Cherokee St., also found themselves busy after they started selling masks.

An STL Style House face mask
“We didn’t really anticipate getting this much media coverage,” Jeff Vines said. 

The store had sold through a complete order of 3,500 that was supposed to come in late in April. Another order is set to come in early to mid-May.

The masks have the colorful design of the St. Louis flag on them.

“We are fortunate to have the ability to adopt and retool based on market demand,” Vines said.

A portion of the proceeds goes to Gateway 180 for homeless families.

“We’re getting them as quickly as possible. They are going to be worth the wait,” Vines said.  “We appreciate your patience. We are working as fast as we can.” The website for ordering is at

The St. Louis Fashion Fund also is busy fulfilling its goal of making more than 14,000 medical masks in 45 days, ending May 13. The group, based at 1533 Washington Ave., supports emerging designers and promotes fashion education in St. Louis. 

An STL Fashion Fund face mask
The leader of the project is area fashion designer and artist Michael Drummond. 

He started it by making about eight to 10 prototypes and having Dr. Kumiko Shimoda, an anesthesiologist at St. Luke’s Hospital, check them over.

Next, Michelle Trulaske, a Fashion Fund backer, made a $70,000 contribution to start the effort. With that money, the group hired 12 out-of-work seamstresses to make the masks. 

Working out of their homes, the seamstresses are making masks consisting of a khaki-colored, moisture-resistant poly-cotton outer layer and a white diamond-knit interior. They can be used again after they’re sanitized.

“We can’t make any claims” as to the effectiveness, Drummond said. But they are considered sufficient for their purposes. They’re not the highest N-95 grade but are enough to protect workers in hospitals and smaller medical facilities and in grocery stores.

Health organizations including Affinia Healthcare, Barnes Jewish Hospital, Easter Seals, Lutheran Family Services and St. Luke’s Hospital have happily accepted the mask. The St. Louis Fire Department will also distribute them.

“It’s showing people how you can make a bad situation into a positive one,” Drummond said. Details about the program and donating are at

Jim Merkel Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit

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