For ten years, Chris Savittiere supplied upscale restaurants and hotels in Austin and around the country with aprons, uniforms and leather goods. To start, the self-taught designer converted his Austin house into a sewing studio. A couple of years ago, he opened a shop on Austin's east side for his business, Savilino.
"I laid off my staff," he said, "and asked if they would stick around for a couple of days and make some masks and see what happens. I said, 'It's either going to be a big dud because no one is going to wear one or it will keep us afloat for a while.'"
The first week they had enough work to keep people going. Then, in the first days of April, they made it onto the news one night, and the Centers for Disease Control issued the recommendation that people wear a cloth mask in public.
"And it just blew up," he said. "Immediately, we hired more people."
Savilino was suddenly receiving about 3,000 mask orders per day. Savittiere says the business has produced over 12,000 cloth masks, and that about 9,000 more are currently being made.
He is building "a small army of home sewers." So far, he has about 17, with more coming on board every day. He provides curbside pickup of the materials the sewers need.
Inside the shop, wearing masks and sanitizing frequently, is an eclectic team. A hairstylist is handling the phone, while another is in charge of orders. An old bartender buddy of Savittiere's, who is also an actor, is managing the shipping area. Lighting people are cutting fabric.
"It's a ragtag group of people," he says. "Everyone is just really dedicated."
Some of his customers are previous clients, who are still trying to stay in business, such as restaurants offering take-out service. Other orders are coming from the public as people call, write to him on Instagram, contact him on Facebook and text. To manage the process, he sends them all to the company's website.
He has donated masks to the ARCH, an Austin resource center for the homeless, and says that when he is ramped up and able to fill existing orders, he will begin to donate masks to other organizations. He has also made it possible for the public to use his website to commission masks for donation.
For now, he is navigating various bottlenecks in the supply chain, working to reduce the current 10-to-14-day wait for masks. He thinks his team will be caught up in about a week, and then able to fill orders more quickly.
At some point, when people are able to return to restaurants and hotels, he will have to face the question of whether to go back to his previous business. He is concerned that as these clients face harder times, custom goods may be one of the first things they cut. He also says that he is having a change of heart.
"I'm feeling more of a responsibility to the community and things that benefit the public," he says. "I feel there's a cultural shift that's going to happen after this."
The University of Texas-Austin continued its march toward a new normal on Friday, as university President Gregory Fenves marked his last day of leadership after five years in office—the final two months of it dominated by sweeping pandemic-era changes on campus.
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Protests over police killings planned for Austin this weekend following widespread demonstrations across U.S.
At least two protests are planned in Austin this weekend over the recent killings of black men by police: Mike Ramos, who was fatally shot by an Austin Police Department officer on April 24 in Southeast Austin, and George Floyd, who died in police custody on Monday after a Minneapolis Police Department officer knelt on his neck. Both events were filmed.
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As Texas navigates reopening restaurants and bars safely, al fresco spots provide the perfect place for long-quarantined Austin residents. Some of these favorites are open only on the patio, others are allowing customers to eat to-go orders in the space, and a few are full service—the details are subject to change. This is not an all-inclusive list, but here they are, in no particular order:
Upscale seafood fare is served under striped umbrellas on the tree-lined porch, with dogs allowed and an unfettered view of South Congress foot traffic.
Address: 1400 S. Congress Ave.
- Reopening today: the zoo (masks required), water parks (advanced tickets required), driver's license offices (appointments required).
- As protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis spread to cities around the county, a demonstration drawing attention to both Floyd and Mike Ramos is planned for Austin this weekend.
- With local businesses concerned they can't make a profit at limited capacity, the city council may soon allow the use of sidewalks and parking lots to increase it, CBS Austin reports.
- KUT notes that, ultimately, it's up to voters to decide who votes by mail.
- Aaron Franklin will be inducted into the Barbecue Hall of Fame, writes Daniel Vaughn at Texas Monthly, just as his restaurant faces its biggest challenge yet.
'This has dwarfed anything else we've seen': Nonprofits adapt to soaring need, fewer volunteers and a fundraising slump
Since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Austin, the Central Texas Food Bank has seen a tenfold increase in food costs.
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