A mask startup is rapidly expanding into empty mall stores

Covid-19 Essentials is a pandemic-specific store for all your pandemic-specific needs, and the growing business already has eight locations at malls across America.

The company sells a wide variety of more fashionable face masks and even makes personalized masks on location using materials like cotton and silk. Those willing to fork over a bit more — $129 to be exact–can opt for an “electric mask” sold at the store that has a rechargeable battery and “a fan in it to cool the face,” said Nadav Benimetzky, co-founder of the chain.
The pandemic has spawned a new wave of businesses looking to get in on a growing market for safety gear. The market estimates for masks alone are anywhere from $1 billion in sales by 2021 to as much as $9 billion, assuming that 50% of the US population will be wearing a reusable mask by this time next year.
Covid-19 Essentials wants to cash in on the trend.

Benimetzky, a Miami-based businessman, said the idea for the store came to him in the early months of the shutdown.
“Everything was closed in March and April. People were selling these medical masks that weren’t the most comfortable,” he said. “I thought if everyone is going to have to wear face masks why not make them more comfortable and put fashion in it.”

Benimetzky, with his brother and sister, partnered on the idea to open a store to meet the evolving mask needs of consumers. “The game plan was simple,” he said. “There are already so many stores that have gone out of business in malls. We would find a vacant store and take over.”

He said the first Covid-19 Essentials store opened in early June in the Aventura Mall in Miami. Other locations include one at the upscale Short Hills mall in New Jersey and another at the Fashion Show Mall in Las Vegas.

The stores also sell a few other products, like disinfecting UV lights, and devices to allows contactless touching of elevator buttons or keypads. Benimetzky wouldn’t disclose how much he has invested to date in opening all of the stores, but said he’s recouped the startup investment.
Benimetzky said he’s aware that the stores’ survivability may be short term.
“We are capitalizing on the fact that there is a pandemic and there’s an immediate need for these items to keep people comfortably safe,” he said. “We also know this could be short-lived. The day the pandemic is over, we will move on to another new concept.”
He’s not the only one trying to get in on a growing market right now. In New York City’s Herald Square, another similarly-named store — CV19 Essential — is catering to the pandemic needs of consumers and businesses.
Store manager Benjamin Hu said CV19 Essential sells a wide variety of products, such as reusable and disposable masks, wipes, hand sanitizers, sanitizing devices, air purifiers and even plexiglass barriers.

CV19 Essential opened in early September. “In the beginning we would see people walk by and take photos. They were hesitant to come in,” said Hu. “Now it’s much better. They like being able to see, touch and feel before they buy.” And they can also get a Covid-19 test done at the store.
“It’s a nose swab with a standard 72-hour result,” said Hu.