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‘You have to adapt,’ Businesses try to make most out of mask mandate

DODGEVILLE (WKOW) -- As cancellations mounted in late March when the novel coronavirus began making its way across the U.S., 608 Custom Screen Printing began losing business from some of its biggest clients -- prep sports teams.

"Right away, we lose track and field, we lose every spring sport, pretty much," said Phil Heimerl, who runs the business with his wife.

With prep sports paused and the cancellation of other events that typically drive printing orders, Heimerl said he and his wife hadn't considered pivoting to custom printing masks or neck gaiters. But their kids had thought of it.

"They're like 'well you need to wear these, dad. You need to wear these, mom,'" Heimerl said.

Other businesses downtown in the Iowa County seat have their own signs regarding mask requirements. That includes Amanda Gardner, who oversees the Dodgeville Farmers' Market, which has continued uninterrupted on Saturdays since mid-May.

Gardner, who also works for Iowa County Emergency Management, said she has asked vendors from the outset to wear masks. Gardner said over the past several months, she estimates those attending the market in masks has increased from 50 percent to 90 percent.

"I haven't had anyone approach me as of yet but if they did have a concern, I would talk to the vendor if it's a vendor," Gardner said. "If it's another customer, I really can't enforce that."

Gardner said she has advised vendors to avoid questioning anyone who is not wearing a mask; the guidance is consistent with what state and local officials have said.

"There are some that feel the mask is a violation of their rights and that's their opinion and that's fine," Gardner said. "I go with what the experts in the health field say."

As for law enforcement, the Iowa County Sheriff's Office has said police in the county will respond to complaints, although not specifically for mask violations. Instead, they'll respond to incidents where business or property owners have "asked an individual to leave the premise for failing to comply with the mask mandate."

For Heimerl, the order has opened the door to sell more of the business's newest products.

"As a business owner, you have to adapt to what time it is and what the needs are," Heimerl said. "And gaiters and masks are definitely what time it is."

Neena Pacholke

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