COLUMBIA — Wedge is a Columbia company that specializes in setting up custom Mac computers and helping Apple users with tech problems.
In the last 10 days, however, the company has done an about-face, jumping full steam ahead into supplying medical protective devices, starting with face shields.
Like many other individuals and companies, the team at Wedge heard the pleas from local hospitals that stockpiles were low and decided to help. The company changed and began working with other firms and about 30 volunteers to make face shields.
Other companies chipping in to help in this effort include Professional Printers, C.H. Livingston Estate Services & Auctioneering, and ACS Sound and Lighting, which helped Wedge move tons of of Apple inventory into storage to make room for three production lines.
Last week it made more than 7,000 and the plan going forward is to make 8,000 per week to try to meet the many requests it is receiving, both from local and out-of-state institutions, according to company owner Dave Wegener.
The company mostly has been using raw goods from companies in South Carolina and Georgia, Wegener said. Suppliers from China are unable to provide what is needed on any kind of a timetable, Wegener said. Requests for the equipment have come from hospitals and first responders both locally and from around the country during the coronavirus outbreak.
All that made for a whirlwind transition from one business into a new line of work for a company with eight employees, Wegener said. "It's ridiculous, to say the least."
Even more more is the next step that Wegener and his colleagues are planning. They believe that they have come up with a way to work with partners to produce N95 masks quickly.
Wegener is not ready to discuss the details, but he believes he can work with partners to produce masks by the thousands or even into the millions, through a completely different and more mechanized process than the hand construction of face shields.
It's so much work that Wegener said he is only getting a few hours of sleep per night, but the emergency requires a small company such as his to step up while bigger organizations ramp up to help out the health care community.
"We feel the push to deliver products for the local hospitals," Wegener said.
Yesterdays closes and wonders
Five Points restaurant hallmark Yesterdays Restaurant & Tavern is closing due to COVID-19. And whether that’s temporary or permanent is ultimately up to the disease, co-owner Darrell Barnes said.
“Anything is possible, because we don’t know how long the virus will last,” he said. “When you look at the whole realm of possibilities out there, anything is possible.”
Barnes points to the ambiguity surrounding when Columbia’s college students might come back, the duration of the pandemic and a new building owner who wants to do renovations as contributing to the restaurant’s uncertain future.
He stresses that the reason they’re closing is for the health of the restaurant’s employees. Recent business — while considerably down from normal and confined to takeout after Gov. Henry McMaster’s March 17 order to close South Carolina dining rooms — was better than expected.
“Right now, the virus is calling the shots, not Yesterdays,” Barnes said.
Two cited under stay-at-home rules
The Columbia Police Department last weekend cited and closed a pair of retail businesses that were continuing to operate despite being deemed nonessential in the city’s recent stay at home order amid the growing coronavirus pandemic.
According to Columbia Police Department spokeswoman Jennifer Timmons, the department issued citations to and closed two businesses on April 4: The Michael’s Arts and Crafts Supply Store at 4400 Ft. Jackson Blvd., and Kim’s Beauty Max, a beauty and hair supply store at 4119 West Beltline Boulevard.
The City of Columbia passed a stay at home order on March 26, in hopes of slowing the spread of COVID-19.
According to Timmons, since the passage of the city’s stay at home order, Columbia Police officers had been offering verbal warnings to businesses that needed to shutter because of the stay at home order. However, she says that the city began taking the next step over the weekend.
“We have to protect the public,” Timmons said.
David Clarey and Chris Trainor contributed to this report.
Do you know of a retail business in the Midlands that is opening, closing or expanding? Reach Mike Fitts at email@example.com.