Kenosha store owner makes masks to match shirts, suits
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Kenosha store owner makes masks to match shirts, suits

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For weeks, S.J. Crystals, a longtime downtown men’s clothing store at 5701 Sixth Ave., had been closed as another business victim of the COVID-19 pandemic that shuttered retailers and other types of businesses.

With no walk-in traffic and little ability to generate sales since the safer-at-home declaration, owner Lewis Aceto became innovative.

Though fewer people were going outdoors, when they did, they were advised to wear masks and follow safe distancing procedures. With that in mind, Aceto revised a skill he developed many years ago as a tailor.

He began making masks from the leftover material from the tailored suits and shirts. He matched the masks with the original material.

Some long-sleeve shirts became short-sleeve shirts with a matching mask. Suits had a matching dual-purpose mask that could serve as a facial covering now these days, or later as a pocket handkerchief.

He could easily make each item in the ensemble in as little as 30 minutes.

Aceto said he always looks on the bright side, even when things appear dismal.

“There’s always something good that can come out when something bad happens,” he said. “With this pandemic, I had a little time to put it all together. I wanted to make something that was different and fashionable.”

He added, “We wanted a more professional look. We wanted something that didn’t look like a medical mask.”

With warmer weather approaching, Aceto made seasonal combinations. Some of the matching shirt mask sets are made from cotton or silk material.

The suits with matching masks have a classic look that are also stylish and appeal to his many longtime customers. He has also gotten some interest from prospective customers.

With the store re-opening earlier this week, he has had few walk-in customers, but has had more than 2,200 hits on an online catalog.

“We need to do something fun,” Aceto said. Referring to the matching combinations, he said they are attention getters.

Some of the shirts are priced from $55 to $75 and some of the suits range from $200 to $500. A mask comes free with each tailored shirt or suit.

Down time has also allowed S.J. Crystals to enhance its website and develop an online catalog for customers to see what is available in the store. Shad DeLacy, a longtime employee who created the online catalog, said it is a big plus.

However, “We like to have people come in. Lew and I are people persons. We like to have people we can talk with,” said DeLacy.

S.J. Crystals, originally established in 1896, has been a downtown fixture for years.

While the store has had other addresses in the city, it has been one that attracts people from across the Illinois border and from other areas where former Kenosha residents have relocated.

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