A downtown Oak Harbor business owner has shifted gears and will reopen her doors on May 1 to provide much-needed face masks to the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Marie Darr, owner of Designs by Marie 523, will sell 100% cotton square masks, mask covers and a limited supply of KN95 masks for anyone in need. With advice from the health department about reopening as an essential business, Darr will follow social distancing guidelines.
These will include encouraging customers to visit the shop only when ordering or picking up masks and limiting the number of people in the store at one time. She also will sell the masks in individually sealed bags.
Oak Harbor Mayor Quinton Babcock commended Darr for her work.
“I know there are several groups making homemade masks, and I am very proud our small-business owners like Marie Darr are doing their part to support the community, even in the current economic climate,” he said.
Designs by Marie 523 is located at 133 W. Water St., Oak Harbor. To inquire or place an order, call 419-307-4100 or reach out via Facebook.
Darr, who opened her business four years ago, primarily made customized apparel, including clothing for local sports teams and branded promotional or commemorative items. She began limiting customer interaction at her shop on March 15 due to the growing health concerns. When Gov. Mike DeWine ordered all nonessential businesses closed on March 22, she shuttered her business entirely.
“It didn’t make sense to keep the business open and risk everyone’s health,” she said.
Darr wasn’t idle for long, however. She quickly saw a need in the community and went right to work making masks at home.
“At first, I just had a few people coming to my house to pick up their masks, which wasn’t so bad,” she said. “Now I have a lot of people coming to my house, and I think it would be a lot easier to make masks and maintain social distancing if I moved back into my business.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on April 3 recommended people wear homemade or improvised masks when out in public, and the state of Ohio followed suit the next day. Since then, the demand for her masks has soared. Darr estimated she and another Oak Harbor resident, Rhonda Millinex, were making 50-60 masks a day recently.
“I was sewing from the time I got up until I went to sleep,” she said, adding she and Millinex even attracted the attention of a local bank chain that placed an order after learning their existing order had been delayed until June.
For Darr, the endeavor isn’t about making money. She said she just wants to do her part to help the community. She has also donated ribbon, fabric, hair bands and bags to others making masks in the area.
“I have given most of my masks away for free or for a donation to cover the materials,” she said. “I think it’s really important that people have masks available to try to stay healthy. Rhonda Millinex and Debra Baker Benton have been a big help in making the masks that we have given away for free to neighbors and small organizations.”