Small businesses in downtown Ludington faced a tall task when COVID-19 shut them down, but one skating shop adapted to stay afloat.
Gordys Skate Co., located on Ludington Avenue, is known locally for its skating equipment, but also its garment customization.
Hung on the walls are different styles of blank T-shirts, sweatshirts and tank tops. That’s where the customer gets to make it their own.
First, shoppers must select their apparel, and then choose from hundreds of unique designs in the form of decals. The logo or design is then pressed onto the apparel, wherever and however the customer would like. A couple minutes later, it’s finished and ready to wear.
When mask-wearing became encouraged by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as a part of social distancing practice, store owner Gordy Gesswein got an idea: adding protective masks to the store’s available customizable apparel. For $9.99 (20% off if paid in cash), customers were allowed to create their masks by appointment and pick them up curbside.
“We’ve always had the slogan ‘Pick your garment, choose your logo, watch us print for you.’ That’s what we do,” Gesswein said. “I was kind of joking with one of our workers when this quarantine all started and I said, ‘Pick your mask, choose your logo, watch us print for you.’”
What began as a parody of the shop’s slogan became an innovative and timely way to generate revenue, as Gesswein and his staff quickly realized that the mask idea was brilliant.
There are over a hundred different designs — many of which contain the shape of Michigan — that can fit on a mask, and all of them are created by Gordys’ staff, something that Gesswein takes great pride in.
“We make the logos, it’s not like a store where they order them out of a catalog,” said Gesswein. “We actually design them ourselves. It’s just kind of an ongoing thing. I made three or four of them the other night.”
The transition to selling masks was made painless, as the store went through the same supplier that it uses for all other garments. The masks remain a hot commodity, as many people continue to wear them despite the stay-at-home order being lifted.
“A lot of people come in asking if we have masks because they see the display in our window,” said assistant store manager Kassie Maraz. “They’ve been selling like hotcakes.”
But it’s not just individual customers who are buying them. Small businesses and restaurants are buying masks by the bulk with their logos on them for their staff to wear. Among these businesses was a local favorite diner and ice cream shop, the House of Flavors.
“We’re pretty excited to have our very own mask,” said House of Flavors manager Mike Cota. “The customers really seem to be enjoying them and we actually have them available for sale.”
Just as Gordys Skate Co. reopened over Memorial Day weekend, things are beginning to return to normal for stores and restaurants all up and down Ludington Avenue. Gesswein and Maraz said they are appreciative of the support from their fellow small business owners, and are glad to help them right back.
“It really helps that small businesses are supporting us and we are supporting them,” said Maraz. “I personally have friends that work at these other businesses. It’s nice when I know that I’m printing a mask that they’re going to wear.”
Going forward, Gordys Skate Co. is eager to help customers get the exact, one-of-a-kind apparel they want, whether it be a mask or not.
“It’s just fun,” Gesswein said. “It’s really, really fun.”