Louisville brothers making face shields

By Beth Warren, Louisville Courier Journal

A Pewee Valley dentist and his Western Kentucky University Phi Gamma Delta fraternity brother teamed this week to design COVID-19 face shields to protect Louisville area doctors and nurses.

Dr. Tyler Jury, 29, cancelled a month of patients’ dental appointments at Jury Family Dentistry to prevent the spread of the virus. Even his side business closed as he and 30-year-old business partner, Clay Simpson, sent their 25 employees home from their Louisville leather goods workshop and store so they could practice social distancing, staying six or more feet from others. 

The men, who met while they were in WKU’s Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, started making leather belts and keychains displaying the letters of their school or various fraternities in 2012 in Simpson’s dorm room.

“While our friends were out drinking and having a good time, Clay was sitting in his room sewing,” said Jury, who ended up joining him.

The business, Clayton & Crume, eventually transformed into a high-quality leather goods business with a production shop on East Main Street and a store on South Shelby Street in NuLu offering wallets, totes, journals, belts and more. With both temporarily on hold due to the threat of the virus, the duo decided to use the shop’s sewing machines to craft face shields out of a variety of plastics and foam.

“We see the need,” Simpson said.

Jury had used a safety mask during dental school while extracting teeth and had an idea that it would be useful to medical professionals. He and Simpson tweaked the prototypes a few times and on Monday settled on one with a firm but comfortable fit that covers a person’s forehead, chin and both sides of the face.

Their plan was to volunteer their time to make 500 to 1,000 shields to donate to area doctors, nurses and others on the front line of the pandemic. After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention alerted the public that the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, spreads from person-to-person through respiratory droplets, manufacturers haven’t been able to meet the sudden heightened demand in the U.S. and beyond.

“We came in Monday just trying to do a little good since we have a shop,” Jury said. “Next thing we know, we were getting a flurry of requests from people who needed these” throughout Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio.

Nurse Cassie Markwell, Simpson’s girlfriend, initially was concerned about whether the shields would fit securely enough to allow medical professions to move around and get their jobs done.

She said she’s impressed with the final prototype.

“The face shield can provide an extra barrier,” said Markwell, who is studying to become a nurse anesthetist. “What I like about the masks, there’s foam for comfort and the elastic provides a way to fit different shapes and sizes of people’s heads.”

Markwell said she plans to take some back with her to fellow graduate school students in Nashville once classes, halted due to the virus, resume.

After receiving hundreds of thousands of requests this week, the men set up a safe environment with ample space and surfaces that can be cleaned frequently in a Butchertown industrial space. They’re summoning their employees back to work, for now making the shields instead of leather goods.

Jury said he and Simpson will charge a reasonable price to cover production costs, but “we’re certainly not here to profit off a pandemic.”

While some concerned residents may want a shield, Jury said he envisions making them for medical personnel and others most at-risk.

“I don’t see a world with everyone walking around with these on, that would be a little much,” Jury said. “We’re trying to supply the government agencies and hospital systems that need these for their front-line line medical providers.”

Orders for the shields can be made on Jury and Simpson’s business website, claytonandcrume.com.