Thousands of KN95 masks to be sold at downtown store

April 24, 2020

Note: The first 10,000 masks sold out April 24. More inventory is scheduled to be available April 29.

A chance meeting at Queen City Bakery has led to a downtown store about to sell thousands of KN95 masks.

It started when MarketBeat founder Matt Paulson began doing his family’s grocery shopping and noticing that, at best, one in three shoppers wore masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

So he posted on Facebook asking if people had enough masks for their family, “and I was surprised how many people said no,” he said. “So I said what if I ordered 400 or 500 off (Chinese e-commerce site) Alibaba?”

He put in the order and then happened to run into Juniper Apothecary co-owner Josh Sopko at Queen City.

“We were talking about how things were going in business, and he (Paulson) said, ‘You should see these KN95 masks.’ I said it seemed like more hassle than it’s worth and we were doing fine with hand sanitizer,” said Sopko, who had shifted gears quickly to produce sanitizer and was selling it as fast he could make it.

But Paulson persisted. He up-fronted the money for the masks and said the store could sell them at cost, bringing in shoppers who might not have otherwise visited.

After one Facebook post and two days later, the initial 400 were gone.

“So I thought, OK, we should probably order a whole bunch more,” Paulson said. “I don’t want to lose money off this deal, but I don’t need to make money either. So I ordered a bunch again.”

With a 10,000-mask order submitted, Chinese exports started to take longer to leave the country. Paulson needed a new source.

He found one through a distributor and importer, and was able to order another 10,000 and then an additional 5,000. Those masks were in California and Indiana, and the first of them began arriving Thursday.

“So we have 28,000 total right now, and if I need more, I feel like I can get them,” Paulson said. “The reason you can’t buy them in a store is they have huge minimum order quantities. They want to sell you 100,000.”

The masks are selling for $3.29 at Juniper Apothecary. There’s a limit of 10 per individual and 100 per business. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The masks also can be bought online here.

“I wanted to make it so they got a little money out of it. It’s going to be a ton of labor for them,” Paulson said. “They are very similar to the N95 masks that are used in hospitals but not certified by the FDA, so most hospitals won’t use them. Obviously, you don’t want to be giving out N95 masks that hospitals need for people, but the next best thing would be a KN95 that filters out 95 percent of viruses and bacteria.”

Paulson estimates he has up-fronted $60,000 for masks, and there is likely to be continued demand, with some businesses already requesting up to 500.

The businesses are offering one free mask to any healthcare worker, police officer, firefighter or anyone else considered a first responder. Bring identification to receive a mask. Additionally, they are donating 400 masks, 400 small bottles of sanitizer, 50 large bottles of sanitizer and 50 face shields to the Bishop Dudley Hospitality House and Union Gospel Mission.

“I don’t really know what I signed myself up for,” he said. “I also look back and say this is probably the 9/11 of my kids’ generation. Do I want to look back and say when that was going on I stayed home and did nothing? Or that I did something that genuinely helped the community? And I feel like this is a way I can help in ways that not everybody can – access to capital, I know how to source deals, and I know how to bring people together.”

To learn more about caring for the masks and when to wear them, Juniper posted information on its website. Click here to read it.

Find COVID-19 business, event updates here

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Thousands of KN95 masks to be sold at downtown store

What started with an order for 400 KN95 masks has grown to 28,000 – with a lot of those for sale today at a downtown store.

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