Closed due to coronavirus, Easton purse manufacturer switches to making masks, other PPE

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Lisa Bradley co-founded the R.Riveter Company to help military spouses find consistency in a life that’s constantly moving.  

“For me, I was in business, and so to be able to have your own business or be in business a lot of times it’s not sustainable when you’re just going to move,” Bradley explained. “So that’s when we said let’s create a business model that is actually centered around the idea and can grow because military spouses are moving.”  

So Bradley and her business partner Cameron Cruse came up with the idea of a virtual assembly line: creating a step-by-step process that can be shown over the internet and therefore accessible to military spouses across the country.  

“They are making the parts and pieces to our handbag line,” Lisa said. “Unknowingly we’re creating a business model where individuals can work from home all across the country. And we could very easily deploy a sewing need.” 

They had no idea eight years ago how critical that would be in a time of need.  

As the coronavirus crisis has heated up, production of purses and bags hasn’t been as essential – but these 21st century riveters aren’t sitting idle.  Just like Rosie the Riveter, the company’s namesake, this group is using their skills to make much-needed equipment to combat the COVID-19 battle.  

“We really relied on and drew inspiration from Rosie the Riveter who went outside of her comfort zone, dove into the economy and was creating a tool in order to fight that war,” Bradley said with a smile. “Now you can see us as modern-day Rosie the Riveters – we’re creating a different type of tool and it’s a different time of enemy, but we’re all coming together as a community.” 

That community is now expanding. R.Riveter is opening up their mask-making efforts to volunteers.  

“We said we need to be part of the solution and launched a remote national volunteer program where all of our volunteers are pitching in and making masks for the frontlines,” said Bradley.  

One of those volunteers who signed on knows first-hand how critical these masks are is Sue Renner – a nurse who works from home. She jumped at the chance to help her fellow healthcare workers during any free moment she could find.  

“It definitely hit home,” Renner said, tears brimming in her eyes. “I still work with nurses who work in the ERs and I worry about them and they’re rock stars. They’ll say, ‘Oh just give me a mask! As long as I have what I need, I’m doing it!’” 

“They’re the ones that are putting themselves at risk, their families at risk, and we just wanted to do anything we could possibly do,” added Bradley.  

It goes beyond masks as well.  

In October, R.Riveter received a manufacturing and employment grant which allowed to build a large facility in Florida to help with production. Construction finished in January, which ended up being incredibly timely as the coronavirus was starting to pick up speed. Bradley and Cruse quickly changed course and started making masks out of the facility along with gowns for healthcare workers.  

“We just acquired a large machine that can actually cut up to 30 layers fabric and so we are using that machine to cut masks and gowns,” Bradley explained. “And that can go towards the COVID effort.” 

More than anything, both Bradley and Renner said it’s nice to feel useful and busy in a time that is very isolating. Bradley said it’s fitting that they have helped mobilize women across the country to help in this fight during International Women’s month – and they definitely lean on Rosie the Riveter’s legacy to guide the way.  

“Now they are able to have a purpose,” Bradley said of her employees and volunteers. “They are able to support their country even though they are doing exactly what they should be which is staying home and distancing themselves.” 

“I learned a long time ago when I was a new nurse that if you work together you can do anything. You can move mountains, and this is a mountain,” said Renner. “We’re making these to help them in any way we can.” 

For more information on how you can join the volunteer effort, go to www.rriveter.com/masks 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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