McCreary Makes Masks

“You can’t stop an engineer,” exclaimed Rick Coffey, 2019 ISE Distinguished Alumnus, President and COO of McCreary Modern. In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, McCreary Modern, one of the largest privately and employee-owned upholstery companies in the world, has shifted operations and, for the last two weeks, been producing masks for local healthcare facilities in the Catawba Country area. “We have offered our services to the county, state and nation as needed,” said Coffey.

Currently, McCreary is making two different kinds of masks. One to cover the N95 mask, which allows extended life of the mask and a second kind, which has a pleated disposable design. “Luckily, we use the same key mask nonwoven component water barrier material, Spunbond/Meltblown/Spunbond, in our outdoor product cushions and back ticking,” explained Coffey. “So, we had an abundant supply of material we could utilize.”

Paid employee-owner volunteers cut and sew the masks and while McCreary absorbed the cost of labor and materials
Paid employee-owner volunteers cut and sew the masks and while McCreary absorbed the cost of labor and materials

McCreary was able to get a diagram and specifications from one of its material suppliers. The supplier also verified the materials were very similar to those they supplied to mask manufacturers. So McCreary used its existing nonwoven materials and fabricated mask almost identical to the commercial version.

So far, They have distributed over 5000 masks with commitments of producing about 38,000. “Unfortunately, this will exhaust our supplies of proper materials,” said Coffey. McCreary Modern is providing these at NO COST to the agencies and operations that have requested assistance. “We are using paid employee-owner volunteers to cut and sew the masks and are absorbing the cost of labor and materials,” shared Coffey. “It’s the right thing to do.”

“We just wanted to take the appropriate action in the face of such challenges and fear,” said Coffey. “Thank you to our employee-owners for your hard work!” ISE department head Julie Swann wanted to send a message. “I am so proud that ISE alumni are doing what they can to protect the health of our frontline workers and the greater community, “she shared. “It is incredible what engineers can do when they face a significant challenge. Thank you for your service to the community; every single one of those masks can save lives.”

Rick Coffey and McCreary Modern

In 1998, twenty years after earning his bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering with Furniture Manufacturing and Management, Coffey bought an existing upholstery business, and Morganton Chair was born. In 2000, his specialty upholstery business flourished and merged with McCreary Modern. Its operations employ over 1000 residents in six separate facilities. All products and raw materials are sourced locally and made in the USA.

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