'Let me brighten up your face:' Milwaukee mask makers see booming business

MILWAUKEE -- Since the CDC urged face coverings early on in the pandemic, there are a number of places you can pick one up — from convenience stores to big box stores.

But with the mask ordinance now in place, some small businesses have found that mask sales are buoying their bottom lines.

Blest by Campuzano

At Blest by Campuzano on 29th and forest home, humming sewing machines music to third-generation tailor Marco Camacho's ears.

"It's a pride and joy to continue the family heritage," Camacho said.

But when the pandemic started, alterations for wedding or quinceanera dresses -- out the window.

Making masks for a while now -- first for nurses and others.

"Una de la roja cono flores..."

And now the community.

"So, I stopped here on my way home from summer school and bought five for myself, and I showed them to my friend and she said, 'go back and get me five!' So, I got five more," MPS teacher Rochelle Vlaj said.

Churning out around 1,000 masks a day, allowing him to hire friends and family after being laid off and help keep the business afloat.

"You know where your mask is coming from, that`s the big one. I think a lot people take pride in that, this is the guy that made my mask, I`m going to support them," Camacho said.

The same can be said for the two dozen small businesses at Bronzeville Collective at 3rd and North is helping keep the doors open.

Tomira White

"It's so hard to say it's been great, but it's been great. Business has been really good, online, mask sales have definitely generated a great extra income that was definitely unexpected," Tomira White said.

Tomira White and Tiffany Miller are manning the store Thursday as people popped in and out.

Tiffany Miller

Miller says she's seen more online sales in the past three months than in the past eight years —and mostly masks.

"I like bright colors, and people reach out like, 'Hey, Tiffany! Do you have black or solid colors?` I'm like, 'No! Because you probably have enough of that in your wardrobe. So let me brighten up your face, since it's covered and people can't see your smile," Miller said.

Something we all could use a little of.

Miller says that the increase in her business, in part because of mask sales, means she too is having to look at hiring another person to help her keep up between her online orders, as well as the foot traffic coming in the door.