(Orig. published May 5, 2020)
It’s a niche industry.
Gainful employment is hard to come by when you’re forced to make a living on a sidewalk. It’s a fact of life for Lenny, an organ grinder whose prospects improved when he recently landed temp work with the R.I. state police as a golf course monitor.
“I hunted down New Yorkers fleeing COVID-19 by driving to Rhode Island,” says Lenny. “The pay was good and you feel really proud helping people by keeping these dangerous defectors off the greens.”
The work slackened, however, as New Yorkers caught on and fled south. “It happens,” says Lenny. “You just have to go with the flow.”
Lenny’s latest entrepreneurial effort has been to knit and sew masks for a niche market. “My specialty is masks for big-nosed customers.”
Lenny got the idea from his own personal experience with protective facial gear. “Masks kept popping off my face,” he explains. “The fit was never right. I’d put on a mask and get maybe two wearings. Off they’d fly. I mean, little kids would laugh at me.”
A nose for opportunity.
The experience led Lenny to explore alternate designs. He developed a few prototypes based on medieval plague masks and primitive headgear, making them available for sale at a favorite sidewalk in Bridgeport.
“People would stop and say, ‘Oh, I know someone who could use a mask with more room in the nose,’ and buy one. Before long, I had a following.” Lenny says they’ve sold “like hotcakes” in certain parts of town with organized crime associations.
Lenny has named his small business “Big Hook,” and says that he is open to offers from venture capitalists who would like to develop the line and distribute it globally.
“With any luck, we’re going to be wearing masks for a long, long time,” says Lenny. “You got to think ahead. I mean, there are a lot of people like me with big honking noses. They deserve a mask that fits.”