Designing and manufacturing wood-burned maps, home décor artwork and custom logos has been Fire & Pine’s business for three years.
The burgeoning brand on Short Cut Road in the Okatie area of Jasper County has evolved from selling its products to a dozen stores to a national presence serving more than 500 retail outlets.
Owner Ryan Martz said Fire & Pine was primed for more growth this year when the novel coronavirus pandemic threatened to bring business to a halt.
But Martz wasn’t deterred. Instead he decided to act.
Since late March, as a way to help healthcare workers and keep much of his staff employed, Fire & Pine has transitioned to producing protective face shields.
Martz realized he had the equipment and an eager staff ready to make shields that nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers wear to block splatter and protect the N95 masks they also wear.
“I knew we had a creative and hard-working team and we have this great machinery that not a lot of people have,” Martz said.
With the equipment and staff in place, Martz and his team began working with designs and test batches. With some help from the South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership, a non-profit that consults with business strategies, Fire & Pine realized it could make thousands of shields – and fast.
A finished wood piece normally takes 25 steps, Martz said, but producing a shield takes three steps: lasers cut out patterns for the PET shield; pre-sized foam is applied; and an elastic head band is cut and stapled to the shield.
After that, the shields are bagged, boxed and ready to ship.
Martz estimates Fire & Pine produces 15,000 to 20,000 shields a week, but he said the company could conceivably make about 500,000 a week.
Fire & Pine has donated or sold packs of thousands of face shields throughout the country, including sending many to about 10 long-term care facilities and hospices in Beaufort County and Savannah. Nationwide, shields have been delivered to medical facilities in areas of great need such as New Jersey, New York, Michigan and Louisiana.
Fire & Pine is also donating a portion of the funds to Volunteers in Medicine and the National Alliance of Mental Health, beginning with local chapters.
“We are thinking especially of the healthcare workers,” Martz said. “There are some causes that are near and dear to our hearts.”
Martz has made sure to keep pricing low; shields can sell for as low as $4.75 each.
Healthcare facilities are the priority, but families and individuals are welcome to purchase the shields.
Martz said not only did he want to help the community fight the pandemic, he also wanted to keep as many of his staff employed as possible. Thanks to the transition to making shields, he said he’s been able to retain 10-12 local employees.
“We want them to know they have a job and we need them,” he said.
Martz said as of this week there were 18,000 shields boxed and ready to ship and Fire & Pine has no plans to slow down.
“If there’s a need, we are going to keep doing it,” he said.
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