Bradford's Boogaloo Boots, known for their equestrian boot products for horses, have recently switched gears to add face masks to their product lineup.
Marie Hodgson is the owner of the business, which she inherited from its original owners in 2014. She has been with the company since 1997. In addition to running the company and making horse boots, she also teaches early childhood education at Georgian College.
"My main clientele are eventers, and my boots are really good for the cross country," she said of her niche business market.
Hodgson has quite a following in the equestrian world, with customers from all over, including some Olympic horse riders. She is well known for her custom boot work, with monogramming and unique colour creations.
"There's always that little twist; I always like doing that special thing that someone wants," she said.
With horse-show season cancelled for the year, she decided to put her sewing skills to use in a different way by making the now trending face masks for everyday public use.
"I started making them for my friends and family. Then my daughter and I decided to put them on the website and they took off," Hodgson said.
Over the past few weeks, Hodgson said she has gotten better at making them.
"I had never made them before so I wasn't sure the best way to do it, so it's been a lot of fun," she said.
As far as business goes, Hodgson isn't sure yet what the future holds, but will continue to focus her time on producing masks while there is still a need.
"The masks are just for now. I don't know for how long this will be in demand. Like everybody else, I have no idea what's going to happen," she said.
However, Hodgson predicted it would be something society will want for the forseeable future.
The masks are made of cotton and are easy to wash.
"They should last a long time. They are 100 per cent cotton and comfortable to wear," she said.
One challenge she has found is sourcing the appropriate fabrics for the masks. She was thankfully able to stock up on quite a bit at F.K. Textiles in town just before they closed up shop.
"I had to break out my more delicate machine," Hodgson said of her mask-making production.
She typically uses her "monster machines" for the making of the equestrian boot wear, which are made of heavier materials, such as leather.
"I had to scrounge around to get some cotton, which is not an easy feat when there's no retail open," Hodgson said.
She commended other local businesses who have stepped up during the pandemic, reconfiguring their businesses to help in the fight against COVID-19 and keeping customers safe.
"I think we're going to see huge changes in the way people shop and interact with their environments and society in general," she said. "Everybody is having to retool and re-imagine and redesign their businesses."
Hodgson has an online shop for her Boogaloo products, including the newly added masks. She even has a basket that sits on her porch for contactless online pick-up orders.
"Thank goodness for online. I think that the Internet has definitely saved a lot of people from comlpete (business) destruction," she said.
In addition to the masks, she is now in the process of making products for dogs, including leashes and collars.
"If this becomes a regular thing then definitely I'll get into more custom work, hopefully the fabric sources will open up again, and I'll have more choices (to offer)," Hodgson said.
To see her line of equestrian brushing boots and face masks, check out the Boogaloo website here.