Etsy seller Beth Curtin closed her online shop in 2011, and didn’t plan to look back.
But at the end of March, Rochester resident Curtin, thinking of her kids, learned how to make small cloth masks out of fun fabrics. And as she checked social media and online markets, she noticed that many of the masks marketed were for adults.
Curtin, who saw her income drop when Hanny’s downtown closed, decided to reopen her Etsy page ( etsymom1)to sell cloth masks specifically sized for children.
"I thought, ‘I’m not working, I have a whole sewing room and a ton of fabric," she said. "It’s been craziness ever since."
Curtin made 50 small masks and sold out on her first day back on Etsy. So she pulled out other bins of scraps and buckled down. Between April 1 and 10, she estimated that she sold between 350 and 400 child and adult masks to people New York, then California, then all over the U.S.
"As I sell out and my orders fill up, I don’t list again until I make more," she said. At the start of the period, most of her orders were for child masks, but "family orders" of two adult-sized masks and one or two child-sized ones have evened things out.
Curtin started listing her masks for $10 each with free shipping. As she ran out of elastic and ordered more (at an upcharge), she raised the prices to $13 each.
"I don’t really want to charge a premium for something people need," she said. "But (elastic) is so expensive now."
Etsy is her income now, she said, and the sales are helping Curtin pay bills -- with no end to the shopping in sight.
Renee Deeds has had a different experience with the online marketplace.
Deeds, the owner of 2SparrowsStudio, normally sells wish bracelets and other handmade jewelry items. Deeds, a nurse with a background in operating room work, "got out her sewing machine and got started" shortly before Etsy sent out an April 3 missive "Calling all sellers: Start making masks if you can."
Deeds saw a "big spike" in orders on that day, she said. "It was crazy, how many hits my shop got," she remembered. Her normal viewership of 50 or 60 hits a day went up to about 240 each day that weekend. She also sold out of the 13 masks she’d crafted early.
Since then, Deeds has continued to list cloth masks with ribbon ties on her store, but hasn’t sold many since April 6 or so. The market, she thinks, is flooded with mask-sellers.
Deeds still works for Rochester Public Schools, which started mandating cloth masks for emergency child care staffers late last week. She planned to make more masks and donate them to her coworkers.
And there’s another upside -- Deeds’ bracelets, especially those for nurses and medical workers, are seeing sales comparable to Christmas shopping season.
"I think there are a lot of nurse appreciation gifts going out right now," she said.