KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Madison Flitch, a furniture art showroom in Kansas City, Missouri’s Crossroads District, is embracing its new nickname of Madison Stitch — so much so the owner will open a second storefront under that name.
Over the past six weeks, owner John Pryor has been making cloth face masks instead of furniture.
The face masks are so popular (he made more than 15,000 in the first month) he’s had to hire 60 employees. The employees are so talented, he wants to keep them working, even when the pandemic is over.
That decision led to opening Madison Stitch, playing off "Flitch," which is an old term for a piece of wood used in woodworking. Madison is Pryor’s middle name.
Madison Stitch will continue making face masks until demand subsides. Pryor will also make T-shirts and other items out of the new endeavor.
“When something grows this big, it’s like 'OK, if I’m able to contribute to something using my skills, background and education and experience,' and any time you can do that it’s a very good feeling,” Pryor said.
What has him most excited about making masks is how it’s united people from all walks of life.
His “stitchers” represent refugees from Myanmar and Afghanistan, as well as unemployed bartenders and teachers from Johnson County, Kansas.
“Everybody is so happy to be able to contribute that any problems or challenges that arise, we’re able to work through it together. Something about having a common goal really helps with people’s focus and attention on what’s important,” Pryor said.
The masks his stitchers make sell for about $15 each. They are designed not to stress the wearer’s ears and have pouches in which to place filters.
For each mask he sells, Pryor donates one to hospitals.
“It’s fantastic because helps remind us why we started this, why we are doing it. It’s not just about us, or trying to keep us afloat,” he pointed out. “It’s about contributing to the community and especially doing something that is good for the front line workers.”
“It’s great because it is making a difference, it is fulfilling a need that is immediate and local, which is really important,” stitcher Amelia Clark added.
Clark started stitching for Pryor after losing her job in mid-March. She’s in the last semester of a doctorate program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and has helped Pryor redesign the mask.
We've created a Facebook group, We're Open Kansas City, where members of the community can post businesses serving their community.