In the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for vast quantities of medical equipment – specifically, personal protective equipment (PPE) – has led to global shortages. One area of particular need is protective eyewear.
Kroop’s Brands, the leading manufacturer of jockey goggles in the United States, saw a increase in sales on its website and via Amazon over the last six weeks for a specific product: ventless goggles.
“We assumed it was in response to the virus,” said Andrew Trembley, president of Kroop’s. “We started noticing where they were going, medical supply companies and doctors, and we realized that they need goggles and can’t get them. We’ve been reaching out to people and letting them know we have these goggles that are not medically approved, but they will protect the eyes.”
The company, like many others, is making adjustments on the fly in the face of a horrific, unpredictable pandemic. Kroop’s, which manufactures 16 different types of protective eyewear for sports such as horse racing, skydiving, and cycling, solicited feedback from some of its new customers purchasing ventless goggles.
Trembley said they noticed that people in medical fields were accustomed to and seemed to prefer medical face shields. Kroop’s had the materials and resources to produce shields and launched production of adjustable face shields (not CDC approved) March 31 at its North Carolina factory.
“We’re using components and equipment used to make the jockey goggles to make the shields,” Trembley said.
The New York Racing Association’s (NYRA) Aqueduct Racetrack is the location for a temporary medical facility being constructed to help during the pandemic. The Jockey Club Safety Net Foundation will donate 1,000 Kroop’s face shields to NYRA as it deals with the effects of COVID-19. The Safety Net Foundation is assisting backstretch workers affected by the COVID-19 outbreak across the United States.
Kroop’s is not alone in shifting course as a company to help fill a depleted resource during the coronavirus pandemic. Christine A. Moore Millinery is producing masks for healthcare workers; Lexington-based Bloodline Products, the maker of jockey silks, created two different types of surgical masks as well as hospital gowns for medical professionals; and Major League Baseball teamed with Fanatics apparel CEO Michael Rubin to makes masks and gowns rather than jerseys.
In the 1940s, Kroop’s founder Israel Kroop developed the first protective goggle designed for horse racing at the request of jockey James N. McCoy. The initial goggle design was both slim and light with outstanding peripheral vision. That design proved effective and popular and remains so to this day as Kroop’s supplies goggles to jockeys around the world.
Now, the company is undertaking a much different project while adjusting in real time, just like the jockeys who have used their horse racing goggles for decades.
“It’s two parts really. One, we were hearing that a lot of people need these supplies – goggles, face shields and masks – and we don’t have the ability to make masks but we know how to make eye protection,” Trembley said. “Two, it’s helping us keep busy and keeping us afloat so we don’t need to furlough our employees in a time when a big part of our business has dried up.
“We’re keeping busy while also hopefully doing some good because we’re supplying people with a need with our product.”