David Allen, owner of Allen Manufacturing in Lewiston, is making thousands of masks and selling them at cost. “My parents taught me to always do the right thing when you can. And this is the right thing to do.” Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — David Allen launched the website WeHaveFaceMasks.com on Tuesday. By Thursday, he’d shipped just under 1,000 cotton masks across the country from Allen Manufacturing headquarters in the Hill Mill.

Allen Manufacturing is selling 100% cotton face masks at cost. wehavefacemasks.com

He’s prepared to have 12 stitchers sew 5,000 next week, evaluating how many stitchers he’d need to get to 20,000, and selling them all at cost.

“I have the capacity, people need it,” said Allen, company president. “There are a lot of companies out there with these acts of kindness, which is nice. It’s a silver lining in a really black cloud.”

Allen Manufacturing specializes in cutting, stitching and light assembly, making everything from parts for car interiors to dog collars, and in the last two weeks, Allen has found himself in the thick of pandemic-related business.

The company’s cutting material for Fabric Warehouse’s mask kits. It’s working with Bedard Pharmacy for its mask-swap program. It’s sewing bags for the polls that help hold up STARC System’s medical isolation containment rooms.

He reached out this week to a mattress-making customer in Vermont that he cuts small square rubber parts for.

“I called them, ‘I’m busy making face masks, how badly do you need these?'” said Allen. “She said we sold 1,900 mattresses on Monday. I said, ‘Who the heck is buying mattresses right now?’ She said hospitals.”

With all that swirl going on around him, deciding to put aside some orders and focus 12 stitchers on masks was “the right thing to do,” he said. “We’re just pounding them out.”

The masks are two layers of 100% cotton with elastic straps for around the ears, following directions posted online by Deaconess Hospital in Indiana. Five sell for $19.

“They’re relatively basic masks, but something is better than nothing,” Allen said.

Tim Riley at Fabric Warehouse helped him build the website, he said, and the material for most of the masks is coming from the Auburn company.

Allen’s taking the names of additional sewers in case he does need to ramp up. He doesn’t see Allen Manufacturing stopping until he’s run out of supplies or need falls off.

“My customers have been fantastic,” Allen said. “There’s a number of customers that I’ve basically said, ‘Sorry, we’re not doing your stuff right now.’ They’ve all been extremely supportive and understanding. I don’t think I’m losing future customers, and if I am, that’s a customer I don’t want.”

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