RI teachers’ smile-friendly mask business ramps up production

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CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Two Rhode Island women say their unique face mask is in such high demand they had to move production from their home to a printing shop in Fall River.

Back in May, Linda Greco and Linda Harnois teamed up to make smile-friendly masks. Greco is a first-grade teacher at Thornton Elementary School in Johnston and Harnois is a retired English teacher at East Providence High School.

Their masks feature clear vinyl inserts so the wearer’s mouth can be seen. Their first design was dubbed, “The Communicator.”

With more mask-wearing mandates being issued across the country, the women say they were getting “inundated” with emails, calls and online orders. Now, they’ve gotten Potters Printing in Fall River to help ramp up their production, which they say is in the thousands.

“We just couldn’t get it out there fast enough, so now we can at least produce a couple thousand in a week if we need to,” Harnois said.

The women say school departments, health care professionals, and car dealerships have shown the most interest.

“They were telling us, ‘Listen, we don’t want the traditional, or original, mask,” Harnois said. “We want something that we can see emotions, we could see facial expressions. So important, especially today, so that we can feel more comfort.”

Learn More: The Speak E-Z Mask »

The women say ‘The Speak E-Z’ mask is even more smile-friendly, compared to their original design. The cut-out is shaped more like a smile, versus the rectangle version in the first design.

They also say while it’s snug, it’s more breathable, too.

“I’m sure everyone that has a covering on that covers their lips, one time or another has had difficulty understanding and even hearing what another person is saying,” Greco said.

“And, as we said before, who doesn’t want to see a smile?” Harnois added.

The women say a tutoring service and private school in Rhode Island have ordered masks in preparation of having in-person classes this fall.

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