Face masks are saving grace for print shop

Companies look for ways to adapt to COVID-19 state of emergency restrictions
May 8, 2020

While nonessential businesses are completely shut down, even essential businesses are struggling to make ends meet. Many, such as restaurants with carry out and delivery, have adapted to the changing times because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Other businesses are taking online orders or scheduling customers by appointment.

State-of-emergency restrictions have modified the way business is done not only in the Cape Region, but across the country.

In early March, Jay and Melody Diaz, owners of Print Coast 2 Coast in Lewes, were looking forward to a busy spring season. They specialize in designing and printing posters and flyers, and some orders had already come in for spring and summer events, including programs for Cape Henlopen High School graduation.

Then the bottom fell out when the state of emergency was declared and events were canceled.

“Our paper printing business dropped like a rock,” Jay said.

He was forced to furlough some employees and look for ways to increase revenue. To make matters worse, his wife's home décor and interior design business, 1636 Savannah, was forced to close as a nonessential business.

He never dreamed that face masks would be the company's temporary salvation. And, he says, he has friend and Starboard owner Steve “Monty” Montgomery to thank for the idea.

Montgomery had stopped by the shop to pick up some printed coupons to be donated to nurses. “And in the conversation, I told him that we print on fabric. He asked me if we could make masks,” he said. “I told him we could fill his order for 100. We had never made a mask, but I knew we could figure out a way to it.”

That's when he turned to the designer of the team – his wife.

Melody spent time on YouTube and found a pattern that would work with their fabric printer. One who loves a challenge, she took out her mother's old sewing machine and tackled the project, and began sewing for the first time in her life.

At first, she hand-stitched every mask on her own. As more orders came in, Jay said it became obvious their process needed some tweaking. He found a professional seamstress in Milford and another in Dover to help sew masks. Melody has continued to sew seven days a week as well, but with an upgraded sewing machine.

The washable, cotton masks can be printed with logos or just about any type of pattern or design. Masks are cotton and washable.

Jay said since elastic bands are in high demand and not available, the design includes sewn-on, tie-on straps. “It's a time-intensive process, but we are improving it as we go along,” he said.

Since that first order a month ago, they have sold more than 1,500 masks to local companies and even a race car team. Recently, they started making custom bandanas as well.

“This has been a godsend to us,” Jay said, adding he's been able to hire some employees back for the fabrication of masks. “It gives us all something to do, and we feel like we are helping in this battle against COVID-19.”

Since face coverings in public became mandatory April 28, Jay said, orders have increased, and he expects the demand to grow. Companies are also using the masks for marketing. Paradise Grille in Long Neck sold 200 masks on line to customers in no time, Jay said.

He said he's not competing with the many volunteers who are sewing masks for frontline workers. “The many seamstresses donating time and skill to provide face masks for Beebe and first responders is amazing and shows the strength of our community,” he said.

Print Coast 2 Coast donated custom medical caps and custom-branded face masks in partnership with local graphic designer Ray Daminger.

THE BIZ: Masks can be ordered in quantity or as low as one unit, which starts at $15, including set-up art and fabrication. There are quantity discounts. Go to for more information.


Do you own a business that has reinvented itself because of the state of emergency? Contact Ron MacArthur at



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