Face masks 411: When to wear and where to buy in Evanston


Illustration by Cynthia Zhang

After Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced a state-wide mask mandate in May, Evanston business owners started selling masks in addition to their usual wares.

Zoe Malin, Reporter

Rachel Hershinow, owner of Stella Boutique, said there has been a “crazy rush to buy masks” in Evanston since the beginning of the pandemic.

Amongst women’s clothing, jewelry and home decor, Hershinow now stocks her store with masks. She offers them in a variety of colors and patterns, and even plans to sell festive ones for the holiday season. Hershinow said if people have to wear masks, they may as well be fashionable.

“Masks were weird and foreign at first, but now, this is our life,” Hershinow said. “Masks have allowed people to feel safer to come out and be in a store, so I’ll take it.”

Because of COVID-19, face masks have become the most important accessory one must wear when they leave the house. Evanston residents over the age of two have been required to wear face coverings since late April.

People must wear masks in public spaces – both indoors and outdoors – when they are unable to maintain at least six feet of distance between others. Gov. J.B. Pritzker also announced a state-wide mask mandate for Illinois residents beginning on May 1.
As more businesses, schools and offices open in Illinois, people are becoming familiar with when to wear a mask. The state requires all employees and customers at retail stores to wear masks, but at health and fitness centers, clients are only required to wear face coverings whenever they’re not exercising.
Gina Marietti, club manager of Blink Fitness, said this means that when someone is on the treadmill and breathing heavily, they would not be required to wear a mask according to state guidelines.
When Blink first reopened its doors this summer, it followed Illinois guidelines in regards to masks at gyms, but after clients expressed their concerns, Blink decided to take the mask requirement “one step further,” Marietti said. Blink now requires clients to wear masks at all times, including while exercising. This is different from gyms in Evanston such as Planet Fitness and LA Fitness, Marietti said.

“Evanston has taken COVID extremely seriously,” Marietti said. “We want to stay open, and we want our employees and members to stay safe. We’ll do whatever we can to make that happen.”

As the demand for face masks has increased because of safety regulations, dozens of small businesses throughout the city have started to sell masks both online and in stores.

Becky Sebert, owner of Becky & Me Toys, sells masks at her store. Including masks in her merchandise allows her to fulfill a need in the community, she said. Sebert sells kids and adult masks, as well as mask accessories like pouches and lanyards.

Parents have told Sebert the masks they purchased from her store are the only ones their kids will consistently keep on their faces due to their comfort and sizing. Sebert said customers have been very receptive to purchasing masks from her store, as well as wearing masks while they’re shopping in-person.

Some business owners and artists have even taken to sewing and selling their own masks. Yun Park, owner of Soapie’s, a dry cleaning company, has been making masks at her Chicago Avenue location since the beginning of the pandemic. In March, Soapie’s experienced a decline in business, so Park spent time making masks.

“I’m pretty much making masks to pay rent,” Park said. “That’s kind of what it comes down to.”

Park said the demand for masks has been “crazy” ever since she began selling them. She has sold hundreds of masks so far and has even personalized some for customers. Park said she always has a variety of adult and children’s masks that people can purchase at her storefront.

Artist Fran Joy has also been sewing masks during the pandemic and started a company centered around the product: Value Life Designs. Joy said her masks fit well and are comfortable and fashionable — all factors customers have praised. Joy collects orders for masks through Facebook and email and said overall, her company’s name summarizes the message she hopes to send with her face coverings.

“You’re either wearing a mask to protect yourself, or you’re wearing a mask to protect other people,” Joy said. “That’s what we need to put the emphasis on: valuing your life and valuing others’ as well.”

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