DENVER -- It seems like you can't leave the house without a face mask nowadays, but maybe you've had one of those moments when you get to the store or a restaurant only to realize you forgot to grab your mask. A Denver-based screen printing company is coming to the rescue with an old ice cream truck that's been dubbed the "Mask Mobile."
The truck has been traveling around Colorado, selling masks outside of grocery stores or any location where someone might need one — like a casino in Central City. Tourists in Estes Park who might not be familiar with Colorado's mask mandate have been able to buy masks right from the truck before walk around town.
"Apparel decoration, screen printing, embroidery, signage — a lot of it depends on live events, and that was the first thing to go," said Ellis Hartsell, Artist Proof Collective Co-owner.
Hartsell and his partners said the COVID-19 pandemic brought business to a screeching halt, especially during stay-at-home orders. He said they were having a hard time finding affordable masks and knew others were facing the same challenge. That's when they decided to start stocking and screen-printing face masks.
"That was really huge for our customers to be able to have these masks available as they started to open up their businesses. We had to have people be able to be in compliance," said Hartsell.
Artist Proof Collective soon realized there was a need to bring masks to the masses. They just happened to have an old ice cream truck that wasn't being used.
“We kept having all these ideas about different things to put on a mask," said Evan Ackerfeld, Artist Proof Collective Co-owner.
The team began printing their own designs on masks and selling them out of the ice cream truck. There's a classic design with a Colorado flag, or ones with a little more personality, like one with shiny gold teeth.
“Just quirky designs that we’re doing: puppy face, lips, things like that. I think it makes the mask less scary, more approachable," said Jared Hujing, Artist Proof Collective Co-owner.
The idea is getting traction. Some businesses are asking the 'Mask Mobile' to set up outside their locations.
The owners say they're not interested in the debate about masks or the politics surrounding face coverings. They hope people appreciate the humor in their designs, including a bright red mask that says "Mask America Great Again" in white letters.
"But we’re not saying one way or another — it’s just these are the times we’re in now," said Ackerfeld.
The Mask Mobile is partnering with Tultex to give away more than 1,000 masks in the coming days. You can look for the truck at the Edgewater Public Market beginning Friday, July 24 through this coming weekend. Additional information is available here.