Ann Arbor T-shirt Company made 25,000 face shields for health care workers

ANN ARBOR, MI — A local t-shirt business partnered with a mouthguard manufacturer to make face shields for health care workers.

Ann Arbor T-shirt Company has continued to sell products online and maintained its employees, but co-owners Jerry Kozak and Ricky Winowiecki wanted to help after noticing health care workers were short on personal protective equipment during the coronavirus pandemic. After the two came across a story about Ackervall Technologies, a Saline-based mouthguard maker, they discovered the company went into making face shields.

“We felt kind of guilty. We screen print. We don’t cut and sew here. We don’t have equipment to offer but we are making money with our Amazon sales,” Kozak said. “We told our employees ‘Don’t file for unemployment, we’re going to keep you on.‘ I talked to Ricky, my co-owner and we were like ‘What can we do?‘”

They reached out to Ackervall and offered $50,000 to provide materials to make more, but due to the company’s limited capacity, Ann Arbor T-shirt employees gathered in their 30,000 square-foot space to assemble 25,000 shields.

“Over the course of three to four weeks, we were able to make 25,000 shields,” Kozak said.

Face shields were sent to St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor, Michigan Medicine, and various urgent care and dental facilities.

“It’s been tremendously fulfilling to turn our success to the community,” Kozak said. “I like t-shirts but it’s pretty evident it’s not what the country needed right now.”

The company had between 200,000 and 300,000 shirts in the warehouse system during the business closures, which helped keep sales going. As the owners prepare for a second wave, they’re aiming to catch up on production to list items on Amazon, providing protective equipment to employees, setting up plexiglass and checking temperatures.

“Expect the worst, hope for the best. For now, we’re trying to produce as much as we can,” Kozak said.

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