LONE TREE, Colo. — Darcy Velasquez and her mother, Roberta Truax, were walking recently in the Park Meadows mall about 15 miles south of downtown Denver, looking for Christmas gifts for Ms. Velasquez’s two children, when they spotted a store with a display of rhinestone-studded masks.
And while it has long been true that sparkles can go a long way with a 9-year-old girl, this store was something new. It is called Covid-19 Essentials, and it may well be the country’s first retail chain dedicated solely to products necessitated by an infectious disease.
With many U.S. stores closing during the coronavirus pandemic, especially inside malls, the chain has seized on the empty space, as well as the world’s growing acceptance that wearing masks is a reality that may last well into 2021, if not longer. Masks have evolved from a utilitarian, anything-you-can-find-that-works product into another way to express one’s personality, political leanings or sports fandom.
And the owners of Covid-19 Essentials are betting that Americans are willing to put their money toward covering where their mouth is. Prices range from $19.99 for a simple children’s mask to $130 for the top-of-the-line face covering, with an N95 filter and a battery-powered fan.
Almost all shops and many kiosks at Park Meadows, in Lone Tree, now sell masks. But Covid-19 Essentials also carries other accessories for the pandemic, in a space that has a more established feel than a holiday pop-up store; permanent signage above its glass doors includes a stylized image of a coronavirus particle. Not that the owners want their products to be in demand forever.