ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Utilizing its 32,000-square foot factory space, Ann Arbor T-Shirt Company has made 25,000 face shields to help the community combat the COVID-19 virus.
Partnering with Ackervall Technologies, the manufacturer of SISU Sports Mouthguards in Saline, the Ann Arbor screen printing company used its own space and workforce to put together face shield kits by hand.
Co-owner of Ann Arbor T-shirt Company Jerry Kozak said while the COVID-19 pandemic started to impact other businesses, his business was secure. About 80% of his company’s sales are online through Amazon, which already had a warehouse of inventory by the time he has to close the Ann Arbor factory.
“At that point, it became kind of a weird survivors guilt-thing where we were doing well but we’re in Ann Arbor, and the students got sent home before graduation,” Kozak said emphasizing the impacts the pandemic had on Ann Arbor. “We felt terrible for everyone, so it was kind of hard to celebrate your own survival when your friends aren’t.”
The company received emails asking if it had plans to make masks and gowns, which it couldn’t. “It’s like, we are screen printers and embroidery. And, they are adjacent machines but you can’t just retool them,” said Kozak stating that he felt helpless seeing other businesses and community members struggle.
Then, he read that Ackervall Technologies had switched to making medical face shields. Kozak reached out to the owner and offered $50,000 to help produce more face shields.
The mouthguard company didn’t have space or manpower to make the extra face shields, but Ann Arbor T-shirt Company did. After explaining the company’s plan to employees, Kozak said a team of volunteer employees put together 25,000 kits in about a month.
Kozak said the company wanted to help the community get ahead of the curve so face shields were given to frontline workers at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor and Michigan Medicine, as well as to employees at nursing homes and dental offices.
When the company made the face shields available to members of the community, Kozak said that’s when they realized just who was in need of the masks.
“We had requests from people who had a deaf family member that depended on reading lips. The cloth masks make it very hard for them to participate any more,” Kozak said, stating that the face shields were also given to many special education teachers working with individuals who may be averse to masks.
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The face shields have also been given to those who come in frequent contact with others, like servers at restaurants, grocery store workers, daycare workers and city government workers among others.
As of now, the company is back to producing customizable T-shirts, as well as selling non-medical cotton masks. Kozak said that it was fulfilling to give back to the community and that the company still has a few thousand face shields to give away.
He said the company is excited to play a bigger part in helping the community from here on out.
Ann Arbor T-shirt Company is at 505 S. Maple Rd.