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Local businesses adapt in face of closures

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Submitted Photo Christmas by Krebs is producing 15,000 plastic face shields a day, according to a company representative.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Many Chaves County businesses, large and small, have had to rethink their operations during the state-ordered business closures.

In Roswell, that includes two family-owned companies, Christmas by Krebs, an ornament manufacturer with a Roswell plant, and Bullock’s Jewelry.

They both found their main business services severely restricted by the state orders and other factors. So Christmas by Krebs decided to switch to making plastic face shields, while Bullock’s is putting a higher emphasis now on buying gold at a time when some find themselves wanting cash rather than jewelry.

Christmas by Krebs is making a big entry into the face protection market. Several local businesses have started making and selling fabric masks, but Krebs already had a large manufacturing operation and was able to convert to making face shields for medical professionals and first responders by early April.

The idea came from Chief Executive Officer Walter Krebs, who works in the corporate offices in Dallas, Texas.

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He decided to switch the Roswell and Juarez, Mexico, plants into manufacturers of about 15,000 face shields a day.

The anti-fog plastic face shields are built large — 9 inches by 12-and-a-half inches — to cover people’s faces and, often, most of their necks. The headbands are latex-free.

The products are shipped to health care providers and other employers of frontline workers in the United States. Individuals also can order shields from the company’s website and other major online shopping sites.

“The demand is high,” said Louise Oeri-Curry, vice president of sales. “We actually had our first shipment the first week.”

She added that the plants have had to increase production to keep up with demand, with the company serving only the United States at this time.

“We know that a lot of health care providers in the U.S. had relied heavily on China and other foreign manufacturers for PPE (personal protective equipment), and that became an issue at this time,” Oeri-Curry said.

She added that using these types of face shields for non-medical employees frees up the medical-grade N95 masks for health workers.

She said the retail and wholesale products are selling only slightly above cost.

“Our goal really is to help the community,” Oeri-Curry said, “to help the community and get our people back to work at the same time. It is a win-win situation.”

She said Christmas by Krebs did not make the switch with the intent of earning large profits, and she thinks that, most likely, the company will return to making only ornaments and other decorative items once the current crisis ends.

“We are really excited to be able to get back to Christmas. We like being known for bringing happy memories to everyone’s homes and that is our main focus, but until then, we want to take care of people who have been affected directly or indirectly by this virus.”

The move allows the company to keep its plants open and most of its employees working, she said. The Roswell plant on South Main Street employs about 300 people. The company chose New Mexico for its first plant, opening here about 1973.

She said employees have taken well to their new duties.

“It actually has given them a new drive when they come to work,” she said. “They are happy about producing a product that actually will bring relief to people who have to be faced with this virus.”

Bullock’s Jewelry, a family business for 94 years, has been buying gold as a secondary service for many years, said Kyle Bullock, one of the owners and the manager.

The coronavirus crisis and the state orders restricting many business operations has meant that Bullock’s is now doing jewelry sales and repairs primarily online or by appointment.

It also has been affected by supply chain disruptions, as many of its major suppliers are located in virus “hot spots” in the United States and overseas.

Gold purchases are useful to both buyer and seller, Bullock said.

“We could provide something that would be very useful for people at a time when they might really need it, and it enabled us to keep business really going while we are facing a lot of challenges,” he said. “So it was a secondary part of business that really came front and center really quickly.”

About two weeks ago, after national standards were set for handling jewelry and gold in a safe manner, the business began letting people know about the gold buying service.

Bullock said that there has been some demand for the service and notes that it can be a challenging situation for people to have to come to the decision to sell their coins, jewelry or other gold items.

He said he is considering whether he can reopen the store itself safely by early May, but doesn’t know if that can happen. In the meantime, he said, he is working with other downtown Roswell businesses on new and different ways to reach people and help businesses and the community. For example, he said he is working on a partnership with another downtown merchant to develop special packages for Mother’s Day.

Bullock said the business is open to adaptation, but only if they remain true to their mission: to help people create cherished memories and to commemorate relationships.

“We are a relationship-oriented business that just happens to sell jewelry,” he said. “Some days, all we are doing is talking to people to make sure they are doing OK.”

Bullock said he was recently thinking about the many challenges their family has seen over the years — the Dust Bowl, the Great Depression, world wars, global recessions.

He said that, while today’s situation is in some ways unprecedented, what he takes from the lessons of the past is that surviving turmoil often depends on people working together for the benefit of their community and helping neighbors.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.