Southwest Austin organizations churn out masks for neighbors, essential workers

A photo of employees at ZIPS Dry Cleaning making masks
Employees at ZIPS Dry Cleaning are making masks for local residents and for a number of organizations, including the Travis County Sheriff's Office. (Courtesy Jason Frick)

Employees at ZIPS Dry Cleaning are making masks for local residents and for a number of organizations, including the Travis County Sheriff's Office. (Courtesy Jason Frick)

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A ZIPS employee cuts out material for masks. (Courtesy Jason Frick)
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Jason Frick's dry-cleaning franchise is making masks for community residents and organizations. (Courtesy Jason Frick)
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ZIPS Dry Cleaning is making masks for the Travis County Sheriff's Office. (Courtesy Jason Frick)
With the city of Austin and Travis County’s announcements that masks covering the nose and mouth are now mandatory for residents when out in public, a number of local businesses and groups have begun selling and donating cloth masks. Here are a few local sources for cloth masks in South Austin in Dripping Springs who are working to get masks to neighbors and essential workers in need.

ZIPS Dry Cleaners on South Lamar

Jason Frick, a lifelong Austin resident, said he was concerned about how to keep his dry cleaning franchise, ZIPS Dry Cleaners, open and operational as COVID-19 affected his bottom line. In the last three weeks of March, Frick said ZIPS lost 85% of its business.

“I never want to fail at anything, so the idea of locking my doors and telling all of my employees they’ve got to go to unemployment was never an option,” Frick said.

When Frick first had the idea to have his employees with sewing skills make masks, he did not think it would be a business saver. He said he just wanted to help out his local community. After learning the Travis County Sheriff’s Office was struggling to access personal protective equipment, he created a GoFundMe campaign to help raise money so his staff could make and donate masks for officers. To date, the GoFundMe has raised $1,970, and the ZIPS staff at Frick’s South Lamar Boulevard location are creating 100-150 masks per day for the sheriff’s office, Frick said.

The Travis State Jail in East Austin heard about ZIPS' efforts and paid ZIP to make masks for workers at the jail as well.

ZIPS’ remaining dry-cleaning customers began to request masks in bright colors and prints after seeing the ones ZIPS employees were making in tan and blue to match the sheriff’s office and jail uniforms. Now, Frick said his business is producing 200-300 masks daily, with half going to county and state organizations and half being sold to local residents. Recently, ZIP also received requests from masks from Austin Energy and the Belterra Village Chick-fil-A, according to Frick.

“We’re just trying to use our facilities both to help the community and to pivot to keep people employed and make at least a little bit of revenue,” Frick said.

Frick’s business is still struggling to get business from dry-cleaning customers, he said, and is down from a typical revenue of $30,000 per week to $5,000 a week.

“We figured out how to keep people employed and keep paying rent and not just close our doors and wait this thing out,” Frick said.

Circle C’s mask-making project

A group of Circle C residents is making masks to give to any Circle C-area residents in need as well as workers in health care and other essential workers throughout Austin. Group organizer Aileen Chen invited neighbors to join the sewing effort through a neighborhood Facebook group.

“This community rallied so quickly behind this cause. It’s incredible what we can do together,” the page for Circle C’s “100 Million Masks” challenge reads.

According to a recent post by Chen, the group’s over 150 members have made and distributed more than 2,100 masks so far after several weeks of work.

Circle C residents with sewing skills can learn how to volunteer through the group’s volunteer Facebook page. Circle C residents and Austin-area essential organizations in need of masks can make requests here.

Hill Country Bridal and Alterations in Dripping Springs

Carol Acosta, a Dripping Springs resident who runs a tailoring service called Hill Country Bridal and Alterations, was already sewing masks for donation to Make-A-Mask Austin—an organization that provides masks to Austin-area health care works—for several weeks prior to the orders from local governments making mask use mandatory. Acosta has made over 1,000 masks for essential medical workers, according to fellow Make-A-Mask volunteer Keele Winter.

Now, with a $5 donation, Acosta is offering her neighbors masks, too. According to Acosta, mask making has helped her keep her business alive in an uncertain time.

“My shop is pretty new, so I was very worried,” she said.

Masks can be ordered directly from Acosta. Learn about Hill County Bridal and Alterations and contact Acosta here.

Is there an individual, business or group in your community using innovative means to create masks? Reach out to [email protected].
By Olivia Aldridge

Multi-Platform Journalist

Olivia hosts and produces Community Impact Newspaper's podcasts, The Austin Breakdown, The Houston Breakdown and The DFW Breakdown. She launched the podcasts after nearly three years as a reporter for the newspaper, covering public health, business, development and Travis County government for the Central Austin edition. Olivia worked as a reporter and producer for South Carolina Public Radio before moving to Texas.