Former mayor answers call for masks

By Lina Wu
Posted 4/8/20

On a rainy Friday morning, Nicholas Valentine sits in Broadway Tailors working on projects, waiting for phone calls, and the occasional visitor. For the past 56 years, Valentine has worked at …

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Former mayor answers call for masks

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On a rainy Friday morning, Nicholas Valentine sits in Broadway Tailors working on projects, waiting for phone calls, and the occasional visitor. For the past 56 years, Valentine has worked at Broadway Tailors.

For once, he is alone. Most of the time, Valentine has had other employees in the shop. But due to the recent novel coronavirus [COVID-19] outbreak, he’s had most stay home to reduce exposure to COVID-19.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak first came to the United States, life has been on pause. Prior to COVID-19, Valentine was busy with a never-ending stream of customers asking for bridal gowns, graduation gowns, and more to be altered.

“When all of that hit,” said Valentine. “Everything sort of just stopped.”

In the pause has come consequences like food shortages, business closures, and more. Medical resources across the nation like face masks and gloves have sold out. Thanks to the valiant efforts of community members and organizations, the current situation is surpassable.

Valentine, a former Newburgh mayor is one individual who has taken up the cause of making face masks to combat the shortage of supplies.

Although Valentine runs a tailoring shop, the shop is deemed an essential business because it also does dry cleaning and laundry.

“Because I’m here and there’s not a lot of customers,” said Valentine. “We started thinking about, could we start making the masks?”

His process for making masks is unique. He uses materials that he already had lying around. Since he uses resources he has on hand, there is no real out of pocket cost.

Valentine uses shoulder pads and ribbons for his masks. After giving the shoulder pad a more defined shape, he attaches ribbons with his sewing machine. The ribbons are used to tie the completed mask around one’s face.

“In looking at it [shoulder pads],” said Valentine. “I said it’s pretty close to what a mask would look like.”

His process isn’t difficult. It’s simple enough that on average he can make 100 to 250 on the daily. Although to many the task may seem boring, Valentine enjoys it and finds it to be a good distraction from COVID-19 isolation.

To simplify the process, Valentine breaks masks up into groups. “I’m not sitting at that sewing machine, sewing straps around for an hour or two,” said Valentine.

The masks are washable. One can even put disinfectant on the outside of the masks for extra protection. Medical personnel can’t use the masks. Because of the thickness of shoulder pads, the masks are efficient options for the general public.

Valentine is open minded about the cost of the masks. For special cases, he gives masks away. He is even open to lowering prices for customers in need. Valentine has also helped other people make masks. He gave elastic to Blanca’s Tailoring free of cost. Blanca’s Tailoring and Broadway Tailors are two prominent businesses in the city making masks.

“I’m not looking at it being a financial thing,” said Valentine. He has already given masks to soup kitchens, churches, individual community members, and more. As of last Friday, he has given away around 300 masks. Those interested in obtaining masks can contact Valentine at his store’s number, 845-561-1656.

In many ways Valentine’s work helps a community that has continuously supported a business that has long made its home in Newburgh. Broadway Tailors is a family run business that has been in Newburgh for over 70 years.

Valentine has spent most of his adult life in service to the city. In the past he served on the city council for four years, and as mayor of the city for eight years. Even while serving as the mayor, Valentine continued to work at the shop.

“It was amazing when I was mayor, because most people would just come here [the shop],” said Valentine.

Even now, Valentine serves on the city’s ethics board and preservation association board. Valentine has had the opportunity to witness the city’s unity in various times of pain like now. Although things are difficult, Valentine still has hope.

“This will be over, whether it’s the end of this month or by the beginning of May,” said Valentine.

Although business has been slightly stagnant compared to prior to COVID-19, Valentine doesn’t worry about business. In addition to the masks, he also still has other projects that are completed or will be completed.

Gesturing to the bridal gowns, graduation clothes, religious garments and more around the shop; Valentine said that his schedule will be packed until September.

“When people are told it’s safe and that curve goes down,” said Valentine. “And they’re starting to come out and be out, I’m going to be a busy person.”

The tailor shop has been around for years and Valentine has no concerns over the shop’s popularity weakening anytime soon. In addition, Valentine said that he has no worries over money because he already has a strong enough base. He also owns his own building.

“I am very lucky that I’ve built a business that’s been strong over many many years,” said Valentine. He said that the shop has already survived many other downturns like the Great Recession.

Valentine looks forward to when the pandemic ends. He plans on having all of his employees return fully paid when the pandemic is over.

“It’s going to be a fairly quick-quickstart,” finished Valentine.

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