Halloween marks the first holiday on the calendar in the Halifax Regional Municipality where masks are mandatory. For local mask makers like Lorelei Dwyer, taking advantage of Halloween and other seasonal mask opportunities is important for her small business.
Dwyer runs Cover Me Halifax, an online mask store, with her two daughters. Their masks feature spooky teeth, glow-in-the-dark skeletons and Ouija boards.
“Seasonal masks are going to help with the sales,” Dwyer says.
The mask boom
In July, Halifax made non-medical masks mandatory in indoor public spaces. For a couple months, Dwyer and her daughters sewed for 20 hours a day.
“We had seven or eight weeks of no sleep, eating from Uber Eats every day. It was insane,” Dwyer says.
When the race for masks in Halifax started to calm down, Dwyer was still busy shipping her masks to Newfoundland. Things are quieting down now, but Dwyer isn’t discouraged.
“I don’t believe masks are going to go away any time soon,” Dwyer says.
Cover Me Halifax wanted to hit the market with the best possible product. Dwyer uses Egyptian cotton sheets on the inside of the mask to achieve a high thread count since studies have shown a higher thread count can improve protection against the virus. Instead of elastic around the ears, her masks go around the head “so it doesn’t feel like it’s tearing your ears off,” Dwyer explains. She also adds floral wire inside to prevent glasses from fogging up.
The design was largely influenced by her job as an educational program assistant at Citadel High School where she works with children with special needs. She asked herself, “Are they going to be able to wear my masks?”
Cover Me Halifax also sells other accessories, including hair bows, dog leashes and collars (so you can match with your pet). During a video chat interview with the Dalhousie Gazette, Dwyer displayed a matching beanie and face mask made with a Black Lives Matter print.
Fundraising through seasonal masks
Maritime Tartan Company, another Halifax-based business making face masks, decided to skip Halloween this year (although they do sell one mask with a pumpkin spice print).
Sherrie Kearney owns the company. After suffering a stroke, Sherrie sews as a way to work from home. Dale Kearney, her husband and media person, says, “A lot of our neighbours aren’t even doing anything for Halloween. We’re not giving anything out. We’ve been told the next big thing is Remembrance Day.”
Sherrie sews poppy masks and donates 20 per cent of each mask sold to local branches of the Royal Canadian Legion. Sherrie and Dale are hoping to raise $5,000 in total. So far, they have raised and donated $3,000 to the legion. During the summer, the Kearneys donated more than $10,000 to local organizations by selling masks.
The New Germany Legion, Branch 102, received a donation of $1,000 from Maritime Tartan Company. Howard Gibson, president of the New Germany branch, says the legion is able to break even when it’s open on Friday nights. All liquor sales are being used to pay expenses.
“We’re not making any money, but we’re not any losing money,” Gibson says. The donation from Maritime Tartan Company will go toward their oil and power bills. It means the legion can keep their doors open.
“A lot of people buy from us because we donate back,” Dale says.
Since April 8, 2020, Maritime Tartan Company has made 14,000 masks. They ship worldwide with orders going to Japan, England and France. Their Nova Scotia tartan mask is on display in Toronto at the Royal Ontario Museum, a story featured on CBC’s The National.
Like Dwyer’s Cover Me Halifax, Maritime Tartan Company will keep making masks as long as there is a need. Right now, their focus is poppy masks and orders can be placed up until Oct. 25. After that, there are lots of patterns to look forward to.
“We even have some fabric coming in for Hanukkah,” Dale says.