Barking Leather sews up face masks to battle coronavirus

A popular gay Atlanta leather shop has jumped into the fight against coronavirus by making fabric face masks for local healthcare workers and first responders. 

Barking Leather owner Ray Stewart (photo) got the idea for the project from a page on Emory Healthcare’s website listing ways to help stem the spread of the virus. 

“I went to Joann’s [Fabric & Crafts] and got some fabric, and because I’m also trying to keep my contractors employed, it gives them something to do as well,” he told Project Q Atlanta.

It's a change of pace for the store, which specializes in harnesses, underwear, floggers, paddles and other leather goods.

Barking Leather employees have made 30 fabric face masks since the project started on March 26, according to Stewart. Michael Schevenieus, the store’s leather designer, and other employees will produce 100 more in the next few days. 

Emory is accepting donated face masks at 1599 Clifton Road between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, according to its website. 

“You have to put them in a clear plastic Ziploc bag or a clear tote, you can drive by their location, and you don’t even have to get out of the car and they will accept them,” Stewart said.

Stewart said he plans on donating masks to a local dialysis clinic as well.

“Whoever needs it, if they call me, I’ll do what I can,” he said.

The coronavirus pandemic has “definitely” affected Barking Leather’s business, Stewart said. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms temporarily closed all non-essential businesses as part of a citywide shelter-in-place order on March 23.  

“We’re in the process right now of doing one of those [Small Business Association] loans,” Stewart said.

Barking Leather moved from its longtime Chantilly Drive location to Ansley Square in September. Barking Leather also has a second shop inside the Atlanta Eagle, which closed following Bottoms’ order on March 19 to temporarily shutter all bars, clubs and other nightlife businesses.

LGBTQ Atlanta residents are finding other ways to support healthcare workers and first responders. Drag queen Wild Cherry Sucret performed a tribute show outside a Midtown condo on Saturday, and LGBTQ Midtown residents have helped cheer on healthcare workers and first responders from their balconies every night at 8 p.m.

Read our full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here.

Photo by Patrick Saunders