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Historic shoe business now making masks

A shoe manufacturing company that's been in business since the late 1800s is doing its part in the fight against the coronavirus.

ORWIGSBURG, Pa. — Kepner Scott Shoe Company is the oldest surviving children's shoe manufacturer in America. For 132 years, this family-owned company has been in operation in Orwigsburg.

On March 19, it was forced to close its doors for the first time after the state-mandated that all non-essential businesses cease operations due to the coronavirus.

"We were obviously overwhelmed," Audrey Zimmerman said. "To be asked to close our doors for the first time in over 100 years was an overwhelming feeling."

But just a few days later, that all changed. Kepner Scott received a waiver to remain open because it makes orthopedic shoes. 

It used that good fortune to retool its production to start making cotton mask covers for those who work in the medical field or are considered vulnerable to contracting the coronavirus.

"It's really important to us. We have friends and family who work in hospitals locally. Making masks to help stave off coronavirus, as well as friends and family who are sick and can't go out. We wanted to make sure that they had something to protect themselves from this," Zimmerman said.

Only eight employees at a time are allowed to work inside the factory along North Liberty Street. 

Each mask takes about five minutes to make, so Kepner Scott is producing about 300 a day and donating them to the community.

"With our masks, we have 100 percent organic cotton, a 1/8" elastic band, and a pipe cleaner that pinches around the bridge of the nose, just like a surgical mask would."

In addition to making the masks, Kepner Scott is still fulfilling all of its kids and orthopedic shoe orders online.

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