Shield Pals, a retail store offering Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), opened June 26, near the Apple store and Banana Republic, just days after The Mall in Columbia reopened its doors.

Photo courtesy Shield Pals.

PPE has been in great demand recent months, as health care workers needed supplies and some businesses pivoted operations for the manufacturing of items like masks and face shields. Shield Pals co-founder Chris McCormick was among them; when Hatch Exhibits, where he is also a cofounder, had its events business put on hold, the Elkridge-based company set up a manufacturing operation to supply medical workers with PPE, such as face shields.

The move to PPE has also allowed the company to grow. McCormick initially had to furlough more than 20 employees when the event exhibit business slowed but was able to bring them back to make PPE; today, the company is employing an additional 60 people.

Along with supplying hospitals, it led to a new product: face shields imprinted with characters like a fox, a frog and a robot. The colorful designs are meant to bring some comfort and reduce anxiety for younger patients when nurses and doctors must be dressed in full protective equipment to stop the spread of COVID-19. The company shortly thereafter started receiving orders from all 50 states.

“We knew we wanted a PPE retailer as part of our reopening plan, but I didn’t know we would find a company that would bring so much creativity to that role,” Barbara Nicklas, senior general manager of The Mall in Columbia.

Shield Pals is also working to build out an educational component that will create storylines for the characters through components like books and augmented reality to help introduce the characters before children go in to see a doctor.