maybe im a bad businessperson but not everything needs to say something. Wearing a mask says something in itself. ~ Dan Rugh, CommonWealth Press
One important part of the Pittsburgh MasQUe ProjecT is highlighting safe and affirming places for trans and queer folx to purchase masks. In addition to this Q&A series, we maintain a list on the project homepage. This Q&A was crafted to highlight some unique aspects of the participating businesses and explore related issues, including the manifestation of racial justice in the LGBTQIA+ community and the real struggles of running a small business in this economy.
I’ve worked with Dan Rugh and CommonWealth Press several times over the years, both on printing projects and purchasing some cool shirts. When our project considered printing pronoun masks, I spoke with the CW team and had a thoughtful back and forth on what was going to work. It didn’t surprise me in the least that they were more focused on people getting masks than in printing on them. They are a company with values that represent the best of Pittsburgh. I hope you’ll consider supporting them.
Name: dan rugh
Pronouns: he his him yinz
Your Business Name: CommonWealth Press
How do you describe your identity? friendly neighborhood union screenprinting shop
Tell us about your company. i started CommonWealth Press in my basement in the south side. initially i was just building websites and printing shirts / stickers mostly for bands. we just tried to do a good job for whoever we were working with. opened a little retail store to sell some of our own merch
How did you decide to create and sell facemasks? i think it was honestly decided for us. its a product that people wanted and we have access to them. initially we were just selling blank masks because, as printers, we had access to them. then as demand grew – we offered to print on them as needed.
Please describe your mask style(s) for our readers. What inspired the design? we have access to many different styles. the designs we use are just carried over from some of our popular tshirts. like i said, selling masks isnt something we were really looking to get into – more just making sure people that needed them had direct and fast access to them.
How do you make your business a safe and respectful space for the LGBITQIA+ community to buy masks and other items? not to over simplify it but i think we just have a pretty solid commitment here of being decent human beings.
It is important for all of us to support local ally owned small businesses. How have you and the business been navigating these past months of plague, economic uncertainty, and demands for racial justice? a lot of pulling together and keeping safely distant, a lot of listening, a lot of freaking out and wondering if we are going to exist in a year, a lot of helping folks that need it, a lot of being folks that need help. you know, trying to be a solid part of that big circle of community where we realize just how much of everything we all do is so dependent on each other in so many different ways.
I’ve purchased a few duds when it comes to printed masks from online vendors. What should people look for when it comes to a mask with print (not printed fabric, but printing on the fabric?) this is kind of what i was getting at earlier – id rather just sell blank masks. i have zero information on what breathing thru ink does, or breathing thru dye. i told folks early on to just get the mask, lets us get these masks to you as fast as possible, dont worry about advertising – this is a pandemic. i think once the panic set in, we started working more and more with printing on them. i still try to suggest printing only on the sides or small etc. its hard to say as a printer and maybe im a bad businessperson but not everything needs to say something. Wearing a mask says something in itself.
How are you keeping your employees and customers safe during this pandemic? its been a long process of learning and communcation. closing down to keep us all safe, following CDC guidelines from day one, opening back up only when everyone at work voted to do so. then constant cleaning, distance, and just trying to take care of each other and be very open about comfort levels in everything.
our people that can work from home, work from home. we have zones set up at work to keep everyone at safe distances. for retail, we have closed our retail stores and moved everything to on line sales.
Tell us about the coolest or most memorable mask you’ve seen. the very first time i saw what Operation Facemask was doing blew me away. Seeing Jenn Gooch and her immediate crew step up and just start sewing, before anyone could get masks at all, they had a small army pull together to source, make, and distribute masks to frontline workers, teachers, and then anyone that needed them. it was truly inspirational to see what peope can really pull off in a time of crisis. ill forever be impressed with just how cool and memorable that was and is.
not to over simplify it but i think we just have a pretty solid commitment here of being decent human beings.
How long do you plan to offer face masks? as long as people need them, we can source them.
What else can people buy from you? we are first and foremost a printshop www.cwpress.com – so if anyone needs tshirts or garments, or masks – we would love to be the ones that print them.
we have our own retail goods for sale at www.compressmerch.com and have done a good many pre-sale fundraisers for people and places that need help. they pop up often so please check in.
Anything else you’d like readers to know? not really. just keep us in mind if you need help and let us know if you need any.
Thank you, Dan.
The Pittsburgh MasQUe ProjecT connects members of the trans and queer community with face masks to protect them during the coronavirus. This includes identifying safe vendors for purchasing masks as well as offering mask distributions. To sign up as a featured vendor, please email us at [email protected]
Read other posts in this series
Facemask Q&A with Dan Rugh of CommonWealth Press
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