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Pivot Stories - The Coverall Shop

Face masks stacked on the embroidery machines at The Coverall Shop.

Submitted by
Jasmine Nelson

When COVID-19 hit alongside the global oil crash, RDC alumnus, Jeremy Jablonski (Business Administration Diploma, 2003), pivoted his work at The Coverall Shop to manufacture face masks, leveraging the skills of his team and their existing equipment to support the health and safety needs of Canadians while keeping staff working. 

When Jeremy Jablonksi completed his Business Administration Diploma program in the Donald School of Business, a business opportunity drew him away from pursuing a degree. The opportunity directly reflected experiential learning he had completed as part of his program, and his experience working for his family’s business. In 2010, he sold his first business and started The Coverall Shop to meet the demand for quality flame resistant apparel, primarily for oil and gas workers. They also offer cresting and embroidery, as well as coverall cleaning and repairs. 

When COVID-19 hit in an already challenged economy, the team at The Coverall Shop knew they needed to pivot quickly in order to keep their staff of about 25 people employed. “Much of our day-to-day business dried up almost overnight. Making masks was within reach for us, given our equipment and skill sets, so we decided that we could meet the needs of the community, as well as keep our people working, by rolling out the mask project,” said Jeremy. The Coverall Shop has been able to keep up with the demands of normal business operations, as well as meet the ongoing demand for masks. “Without pivoting, we would have had to lay off most of our workforce, due to significantly reduced volumes,” he said. 

“Our ‘Why’ is ‘Keeping People Safe,’ so this is really in sync with who we are.”

Manufacturing is not part of the work The Coverall Shop typically does as a distributor for third-party manufacturers of flame resistant apparel and personal protective equipment. However, because they have equipment for sewing and embroidery onsite, used typically for altering and customizing apparel, they were able to shift to making masks. “We also have a laser cutter onsite, which allowed us to cut the materials very easily,” says Jeremy. “We can cut 72 masks in 6.5 minutes!” When concerns about COVID-19 began to emerge, he began researching fabrics and was pleased to find that one of their largest suppliers of flame resistant fabrics also created a product which could be used for facemasks. “BioSmart has been the key to our operation,” says Jeremy. “BioSmart, when cared for properly, is antimicrobial, keeping germs, bacteria and even some viruses at bay. Once we had this fabric solution, we began our pivot to manufacturing.”

After the masks are manufactured, the team launders them in their facility in accordance with the manufacturer’s directions and then packages each mask individually in a resealable bag, so that the masks are ready to wear when customers receive them. “We have seen many masks going out to our regular oil and gas clients, as well as utility providers, pharmacies, seniors’ homes, the public at large and, of course, our friends and family,” he says. The Coverall Shop has also donated masks to local schools and charitable organizations. “We have sold product in nearly every province at this point, and the Northwest Territories.  Our e-commerce site is attracting a lot of attention nationwide.  To date, we have sold well into the 10s of thousands and the demand is continuing,” he says.

Jeremy is quick to acknowledge that this pivot required significant and committed buy-in from the whole team at The Coverall Shop, “There was so much inspiration from my team, which allowed me to recognize that we could really make a difference. With all sincerity, the impetus for this was purely out of necessity, in order to keep our business afloat, our people working, and our community and clients safe.”

The Coverall Shop’s commitment to the community shapes all of the work that they do. When your business is keeping people safe, you can’t compromise on quality. “With the support of our customers and our community, our businesses have survived and we are fortunate to be able to help out in some small way, in hopes of making a difference.  This is all possible because of the support from the community, and in turn, I believe it is incumbent on businesses to give back to the extent they are able to, to make the world a better place for everyone,” says Jeremy. “We consider ourselves a community partner, just as my parents did when they started in business in 1981. We strongly believe in giving back and we truly value our community.”

This commitment is further reflected in his long history of support for Red Deer College, which has included serving on the RDC Alumni Association and RDC Foundation Boards. “When it comes to post-secondary,” he says, “I support and endorse the opportunities for our youth to grow and learn, and to become contributing members of society and the leaders of tomorrow. I firmly believe that the best way to educate our kids is to be able to, at least, get them to start their educational journey here at home. For me, participating in the growth and development of RDC over the years has been very gratifying, and I hope my own kids take advantage of the great institution that we have here in Red Deer!” 

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