Posts tagged with "The Chicago Tribune"

Keeping a cool head: Some companies are making safe summer face masks without a ‘sweat factor’

July 7, 2020

As a pastry chef who spends her workdays in a surgical-style mask next to hot ovens, Leigh Omilinsky is no stranger to the face mask “sweat factor”—and she has little patience for those griping about the sticky irritation of covering up during a steamy Chicago summer.

 “This has to be more comfortable than a ventilator,” Omilinsky, 35, of Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood, recently told The Chicago Tribune.

When health officials began recommending that people wear masks in public places to slow the spread of COVID-19, they turned to whatever was available, be it a hand-sewn fabric mask, cut up T-shirt, or winter balaclava. Now they’re often required, in places where social distancing is a challenge. As Illinoisans cautiously return to more activities put on hold during the pandemic, some are looking for masks that are tolerable for more than a quick grocery run.

Big brands like Under Armour, New Balance, and Uniqlo have announced designs using breathable fabrics, and Chicago mask-makers are experimenting with new styles as well.

There’s no magic bullet, the Tribune points out: Things that make a mask effective at containing droplets that can spread the virus causing COVID-19, like multiple layers of tightly woven fabrics, also tend to make them steamy on hot, humid days. Still, a mask that’s comfortable enough to keep on your face is more effective than one that spends most of its time dangling under your chin, experts said.

“That’s the Catch-22,” said Alan Spaeth, co-founder of Chicago-based PrideMasks. “You make it lighter and more breathable, and it’s not doing its job, which is keeping your particulates close to your face.”

While the Illinois Department of Public Health advises using a cloth face covering, the agency does not specify the type of material. It recommends that the mask be breathable while covering the wearer’s nose and mouth; fit snugly and comfortably against the side of the wearer’s face; and have multiple layers of fabric.

PrideMasks opted for a two-layer design with an inner layer of cotton and an outer layer of athletic microfiber fabric to help control moisture, Spaeth said. PrideMasks also started selling neck gaiters, and both styles offer sun protection.

Mr. Pink’s—a mask-making offshoot of Chicago-based Bangtel, which rents properties in Chicago and New York for vacations and bachelorette parties—originally designed a mask with three layers of fabric and a pocket for a filter. It’s still the most popular, but Mr. Pink’s is constantly experimenting, said owner and founder Liz Klafeta.

There’s also a two-layer option for people worried about overheating. Another has a stiff outer layer that stands away from the wearer’s face, keeping fabric off their mouth. Customers can choose between masks that loop around their ears or tie behind the head. Some styles also offer a choice between an all-cotton mask or one with an inner flannel layer that’s softer against the skin.

Soon Mr. Pink’s will carry a see-through mask with a clear vinyl window along with a line of bachelorette and wedding-themed masks.

“We’ll do it for as long as people need it or are requesting them,” Klafeta told the Tribune. “It feels good to be doing something a little different that can bring a smile to people’s faces.”

Companies also are adding sizes. Chicago-based menswear maker The Tie Bar, which makes a two-layer, all-cotton mask with room for a filter, added kids’ sizes and an extra-large size after hearing from men who grew “big COVID beards,” said CEO Allyson Lewis.

That said, finding masks breathable enough to wear while working out can be more of a challenge. Chicago requires people wear masks while exercising at indoor gyms. Even for those running outdoors, keeping faces covered on sidewalks and trails where people could encounter others is smart as a safety measure and show of respect, said Chicago Area Runners Association Executive Director Greg Hipp.

Many runners use neck gaiters that can be worn around the neck for easier breathing when a runner is alone, or pulled up over the mouth and nose when others are near, Hipp said.

Under Armour said its “Sportsmask,” designed for athletes, sold out within an hour when it was introduced in June. The mask has structured fabric designed to sit off the wearer’s mouth and nose for better airflow. There are three layers; the one that sits closest to the skin has an anti-microbial treatment and is designed to feel cool.

The company worked with health experts when designing a mask for workers in hospitals near its Maryland headquarters, and used what it learned to make the Sportsmask, according to Kyle Blakely, Under Armour’s vice president of Materials Innovation.

Another athletic brand, New Balance, has said it plans to sell an “athletics-ready face mask” in the coming weeks.

But you pay for what you get: Higher-tech masks can come with a higher price tag. Under Armour’s Sportsmask is $30 — the same price The Tie Bar charges for a pack of five. Masks from Zensah and PrideMasks cost $18 and $15, respectively. Gap sells three-packs for $15.

Research contact: @chicagotribune

European Just Eat Takeaway to buy Chicago-based Grubhub in $7.3 billion deal

June 12, 2020

Grubhub has agreed to be acquired by Just Eat Takeaway.com, an Amsterdam-based food delivery company, in a $7.3 billion deal that will make the combined company the largest online food delivery platform outside China, The Chicago Tribune reports.

Under terms of the all-stock transaction announced on Wednesday, June 10, Just Eat Takeaway.com is valuing each share of Chicago-based Grubhub—which went public in 2014— at $75.15.

The combined firm will be headquartered in Amsterdam, with a North American headquarters in Chicago. Grubhub CEO and founder Matt Maloney will join Just Eat Takeaway.com’s board and lead the North American office.

Shareholders of each company need to approve the transaction. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2021, The Tribune says.

In 2019, Grubhub had 23 million customers, 180 million orders and revenues of $1.3 billion. Just Eat and Takeaway.com had a combined 48 million customers, 413 million orders and revenues of $1.7 billion. The U.K.’s Just Eat and the Dutch online food ordering Takeaway.com merged in a $7.6 billion deal in April.

As of December 31, Grubhub employed about 2,700 people, including 1,200 in Chicago.

Last month, Grubhub was reportedly in merger talks with Uber, a deal that would have brought together two of the top three food delivery platforms in the U.S., but it raised antitrust concerns.

Grubhub offers services in more than 4,000 cities in the United States.

Just Eat Takeaway.com operates in Europe, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Brazil, New Zealand and Israel. The company doesn’t have a presence in the United States.

Research contact: @chicagotribune

Pie in the sky: During pandemic, Home Run Inn churns out 80,000 frozen pizzas a day

June 8, 2020

In early March, Home Run Inn—the official pizza of the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field— began building up its inventory of frozen pizza at its southwest suburban Chicago plant, as the COVID-19 pandemic began to hit home.

The family owned company was nonetheless unprepared for the surge in demand, as worried consumers loaded up on the stay-at-home staple before hunkering down for the foreseeable future, The Chicago Tribune reports.

“It was absolutely crazy,” said Nick Perrino, 33, who heads up the frozen pizza division for Home Run Inn. “The pandemic had people stocking up on frozen pizza, making sure they had product.”

-year-old pizza empire that grew from a single Chicago tavern, Home Run Inn operates nine restaurants in the city and suburbs, and a 60,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Woodridge, Illinois. Frozen pizza generates about 75% of the company’s revenue, but with its restaurants limited to pickup and delivery since March, the balance has shifted even more dramatically.

Home Run Inn sells frozen pizza in more than 40 states and is the No. 12 brand in sales nationally, according to IRi, a Chicago-based market research firm. It is the number-one -selling frozen pizza in the Chicago area.

“If we could make double, we’d be able to sell double,” said Perrino, whose grandfather began serving pizza at the family’s Little Village tavern in 1947.

Home Run Inn went all in on frozen pizza March 16, shifting to a seven-day production schedule for its 130 line workers. The plant has been churning out about 78,000 frozen pizzas a day, up about a third from the pre-pandemic operation, the Tribune reports.

The company closed the plant for a day on April 6 after two employees tested positive for COVID-19. When it reopened, new protections were implemented including mandatory masks, increased cleaning schedules, and social distancing in the break rooms. Plant workers received a $2 an hour pay boost and an increase in the number of sick days.

In some cases, line workers are closer than 6 feet, but the protective measures generally have been successful, with seven cases of COVID-19 across the company and none since late April, Perrino said.

Manufacturing was backed down to a six-day-a-week schedule in April, when it became clear the new normal in the pizza business may last for a while and the grueling schedule was unsustainable, Perrino said. Demand has flattened in recent weeks, enabling Home Run Inn to resume production on some of its specialty pizzas, such as its classic sausage margherita.

While Illinois and other states are beginning to reopen for business, Perrino said the shift to frozen pizza may endure for some time, as consumers remain wary of venturing beyond their freezer for a sausage and pepperoni pie.

“Habits have changed, ” Perrino said. “Times are uncertain, the economy is uncertain. But one thing we do know is that people always need to eat.”

Research contact: @chicagotribune

Branded masks turn coronavirus protection into ad space: ‘It’s a face billboard.’

May 4, 2020

Starting May 1, face masks will be de rigueur in public places in Illinois for all residents over the age of two. But while cat and dog faces have been trending in other cities as the masks of choice, different cover-ups already are appearing on Chicago streets.

Many companies are beginning to take advantage of that vacant space that suddenly has appeared between our noses and chins. They are creating new advertising vehicles— branded face masks promoting everything from fast food restaurants to sports teams, The Chicago Tribune reports.

All major sports leagues have begun producing officially licensed team logo masks. Universal Music Group is making masks featuring artists from Willie Nelson to Justin Bieber. Warners Bros. has licensed a mask with the cast from the 1990s TV show, “Beverly Hills, 90210.”

At least initially, the proceeds of branded mask sales are helping to fund COVID-19 relief efforts, the Tribune notes. But turning personal protective equipment into an ad for a real estate agent may raise eyebrows, even in the new normal of a worldwide health crisis.

New York-based branding strategist Peter Shankman told the news outlet that branded face masks, if “done the right way,” will generally be perceived in a positive light.

 “Wearable brands have become a part of our culture,” Shankman said.

Fanatics, which operates an officially licensed e-commerce merchandise business for major sports leagues, sells team masks for the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLS, and WNBA, at prices ranging from $15 to $25 each.

In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot may be the top salesperson for branded masks after donning one featuring the city logo and her COVID-19 prevention mantra, #StayHome.

The mask was made by PrideMasks, which converted its small Chicago factory from a marching band uniform supplier and flag-maker to a branded face mask company last month.

“Once the mayor started wearing the mask, it’s blown up,” said Alan Spaeth, co-founder of the company formerly known as R&S Marching Arts.

The company told the Tribune that it has been inundated with commercial orders, employing a staff of about 18 in split shifts to produce about 700 to 800 masks per day. The masks sell for $15 each, in lots generally ranging from 20 to 500 masks per design. Clients include a Dow Chemical plant in Midland, Michigan, local Sonic restaurants and flight crews from Southwest Airlines.

Spaeth turned down an order for a half million face masks from a pharmaceutical company because it would have overwhelmed production and squeezed out smaller business customers. .

Companies are buying the branded masks to meet state health requirements and provide “corporate wear,” Spaeth said.

One client in particular said it was concerned about potentially inappropriate personal messaging on masks worn by employees. “It’s a way to keep everything uniform, and if you’re representing a company, keep it on message,” Spaeth said. “It’s a face billboard.”

Research contact: @chicagotribune

Kohl’s will carry Lands’ End apparel online and in 150 stores this fall

March 19, 2020

Lands’ End is trading its partnership with Sears for one with another department store: Kohl’s.  The Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin-based department store chain will carry Lands’ End apparel and home merchandise online and in 150 of its more than 1,100 locations this fall, the retailers announced on March 16, according to a report by The Chicago Tribune.

“The addition of Lands’ End, a market leader in the classic, casual lifestyle, into Kohl’s brand portfolio further strengthens our product leadership and our ability to deliver unmatched national brands to Kohl’s customers,” Kohl’s CEO Michelle Gass said in a news release. “Lands’ End brings its strong brand recognition, leadership in casual style and fit authority, and gives new and existing customers something to discover at Kohl’s.”

Kohl’s didn’t say which stores would carry the Lands’ End products.

Lands’ End was founded in Chicago in 1963, and initially sold yachting gear by catalog. Another Chicago-area retailer, Sears, bought Lands’ End in 2002.

The partnership with Sears gave Lands’ End, which had relied primarily on catalog and online sales, a presence in hundreds of Sears stores. Lands’ End continued to have shops in Sears stores after a spinoff separated the companies in 2014, the Tribune said.

But there was little overlap between the two retailers’ customers, Lands’ End CEO Jerome Griffith told the Tribune last year, when the company opened a store at Oakbrook Center mall, a premier shopping destination in Chicago’s western suburbs. The last of Lands’ End’s shops in Sears closed earlier this year.

Lands’ End has 26 stand-alone stores today, although all are closed through March 29 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Research contact: @chicagotribune

Ground controls: United Airlines is first major airline to cut U.S. domestic flights during coronavirus scare

March 6, 2020

As a growing number of U.S. businesses, schools, and event sponsors scale back , cancel, or pull back on participation in large-scale assemblages with a wary eye on the coronavirus outbreak, United Airlines has become the first major U.S. air carrier to make broad cuts to both domestic and international flights, The Chicago Tribune reports.

Several airlines already had canceled flights to China, where COVID-19 first emerged; as well as to a handful of other destinations affected by the outbreak.

But the virus, which has killed about a dozen people in the United States to date, with numbers rising daily (and about 3,200 globally) now is  a pandemic— with cases in 76 countries. As a result, more companies are restricting travel and pulling out of conferences to protect employees; and airlines are waiving flight change fees to encourage customers to book despite uncertainty about how far the outbreak will spread.

United is the major first U.S. carrier to announce broad cuts to its operations, but it’s unlikely to be the last, as the virus has “gutted” demand for air travel, Henry Harteveldt, travel industry analyst and president of Atmosphere Research Group, told The Chicago Tribune.

In April, United plans to slash its international schedule by 20% and its domestic schedule by 10%. Similar reductions are expected in May, airline executives said in a letter to employees Wednesday. The airline is asking employees to volunteer for unpaid leaves of absence, and is postponing some salary increases and hiring

.Scaling back its schedule now will make it easier for United to return to normal operations, spokesperson Charles Hobart told the news outlet. “We expect the recovery to be smoother than had we taken a more wait-and-see approach and lost the ability to control our own actions,” he said.

The airline declined to say how much demand for flights was down, but in a regulatory filing last month, United reported a 75% drop in demand for its Asian routes outside of China.

Its pared-back schedule is not expected to cut off service to any U.S. city it currently serves. In some cases, the airline is reducing the frequency of flights on a particular route, delaying the start of seasonal service, or halting routes if travelers can connect through another United hub. Seasonal flights between Chicago and Zurich that usually start in April will be pushed back, for instance, and United is suspending flights between Chicago and Eugene, Oregon, Hobart said.

United will contact affected customers who have already booked flights to offer alternatives, Hobart said.

Research contact: @united

Peapod to shut down grocery delivery in the Midwest and cut 500 jobs

February 13, 2020

Peapod, the grocery delivery pioneer developed by Stop & Shop in 1989, has announced plans to cease operations in the Midwest—a move that will mean the loss of 500 jobs, according to a report by The Chicago Tribune.

Customers of the online grocer who live in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana won’t be able to place delivery orders through the Peapod website starting as soon as February 18, the parent company of both the online grocer and its bricks-and-mortar originator, Netherlands-based Ahold Delhaize, announced Tuesday.

About 50,000 people in the Midwest currently use Peapod, placing 10,500 orders weekly.

Chicago-based Peapod will close a distribution center and food preparation facility in Lake Zurich, a pick-up point in Palatine; and distribution facilities in Chicago, Milwaukee and Indianapolis — affecting 400 employees. Another 30 employees will be cut at corporate headquarters in the West Loop, and about 100 drivers will lose their jobs.

Chicago will remain the headquarters for Peapod Digital Labs, which runs the e-commerce technology for Ahold Delhaize’s U.S. grocery brands. Peapod Digital Labs employs about 450 people, half of them in Chicago, and plans to hire 100 more people this year.

Peapod is exiting the Midwest as grocery delivery heats up, the Tribune says. The value of the online grocery market more than doubled from $12 billion in 2016 to $26 billion in 2018, and some projections have it reaching $100 billion by 2025.

Peapod will continue to serve customers on the East Coast, where Ahold Delhaize—the Dutch parent of Food Lion, Stop and Shop, and Giant—is the region’s largest grocery retailer. The decision to cut service in the Midwest will allow the company to focus on a strategy that offers in-store, delivery, and pick-up options.

“Customers really want groceries to be available for them whichever way they choose to shop,” JJ Fleeman, Chief ECommerce Officer and president of Peapod Digital Labs, explained to the news outlet.

Peapod’s Midwest operation posed challenges because it was online only, so it didn’t have a network of stores to connect to the supply chain and it was more difficult to gain new customers who want to know the grocery brand where their fresh food is coming from, said Selma Postma, president of Peapod.

“This was a very difficult decision given our rich history in Chicago,” Postma told the Tribune. “We have a lot of loyal customers, we have a lot of loyal employees.”

Peapod’s Midwest operations accounted for about $97 million of Ahold Delhaize’s $1.1 billion in online revenue in the United States.

 Research contact: @chicagotribune

Should pigs fly? New DOT rules would allow only service animals

January 23, 2020

Airlines would no longer be required to accommodate emotional support animals under new federal rules proposed January 22 that seek to rein in passengers who try to bring their pets on-board, The Chicago Tribune reports.

The U.S. Department of Transportation says it “wants to ensure that individuals with disabilities can continue using their service animals while also reducing the likelihood that passengers wishing to travel with their pets on aircraft will be able to falsely claim their pets are service animals.”

According to the Tribune, federal laws currently require airlines to permit passengers with disabilities to travel with service and emotional support animals in the cabin, although support animals don’t have to have the specialized training service animals receive. Unlike pets, service and support animals fly at no added fee.

U.S. airlines already have started tightening rules for emotional support animals over the past couple of years, citing an increase in problems with animals such as miniature horses, peacocks, and tarantulas in the cabin.

Transportation officials said last year they were working on new rules for service animals. Under the proposal, which must undergo a public comment phase before being finalized, airlines wouldn’t be required to treat emotional support animals differently than a household pet. They also wouldn’t be required to transport service animals other than dogs.

The proposal would define a service animal as a dog “individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, “ the Tribune reports. Psychiatric service animals would have the same requirements as other service animals.

The carriers also would be able to limit passengers to two service animals that fit within the traveler’s foot space on the aircraft.

In addition, the news outlet notes, airlines would be allowed to require passengers to submit forms developed by the transportation department—attesting to the animal’s good behavior, health, and ability to either not relieve itself or do so in a sanitary way on long flights.

Finally, carriers could require travelers with service animals to check in an hour before other passengers to allow time to process the animal’s documents, DOT said.

Research contact: @chicagotribune

Pedal pusher: ‘Peloton husband’ gives real-life girlfriend an exercise bike for Christmas

December 30, 2019

Some people just love “feeling the burn”—even if that extends beyond muscles to public opinion. In fact, the much-maligned Peloton Husband featured in the company’s polarizing holiday commercial isn’t back-pedaling on his choice of gift, according to a report by The Chicago Tribune/TNS.

After he was skewered for inflicting the Peloton bike on his reluctant-seeming “wife” in the viral ad—which attracted widespread criticism for being sexist and culturally insensitive—on Christmas Day, he gave his real-life girlfriend one of the exercise bikes.

“Here’s hoping this goes over better the second time. … Merry Christmas to my actual girlfriend (pls don’t leave me),” actor Sean Hunter, a.k.a. @pelotonhusband, wrote Wednesdaym, December 25, on Instagram—sharing a picture of himself and his girlfriend posing with the pricey bike.

The Vancouver, Canada-based elementary school teacher defended himself in Psychology Today when the ad went viral and he and his costar, Monica Ruiz, were roasted on social media.

“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. My five seconds of air time created an array of malicious feedback that is all associated with my face. My friend texted me today declaring that I’m ‘a symbol of the patriarchy,'” Hunter said. “As my face continues to be screen shot online, I wonder what repercussions will come back to me.”

Only some of that criticism cycled back after his Christmas Day reveal, with feedback calling out the real-life gift as a Peloton-backed publicity stunt and others praising his levity for bringing the narrative full circle.

Although Peloton defended the “The Gift That Gives Back” spot as a way “to celebrate that fitness and wellness journey,” the company said it was “disappointed in how some have misinterpreted this commercial.”

On Thursday, however, it endorsed Hunter’s gifting idea, commenting on his post, “Looks like a successful Christmas gift to us! We hope you love it, and we’re so glad you’re a part of the Peloton family!”

Meanwhile, Ruiz blamed her brief but nervous smile in the ad for kick-starting the controversy earlier this month. “I think it was my fault. My eyebrows looked worried, I guess?” Ruiz said on the “Today” show.  “People were like, ‘She looks scared!'” she said, laughing. “I’m telling you, it was my face. That was the problem. And it just exploded from there.”

Ruiz fared a little better than her costar did amid the backlash. The actress was commissioned by Ryan Reynolds’ Aviation Gin company for a follow-up ad spoofing her Peloton appearance and has landed a gig on CBS’ daytime drama  The Bold and the Beautiful.

Research contact: @chicagotribune

$40M Jeep museum in Ohio to offer visitor amenities–including outdoor track, maybe hotel

December 26, 2019

From coast to coast, owners of the off-road models of the iconic American Jeep—who call themselves “Jeepers”—gather several times a year to put their vehicles to the test in such wild locations as Moab Utah, Death Valley, The Rubicon Trail, and Tillamook, Oregon. But now, they won’t have to wait for a special group event.

The Jeep Wrangler is manufactured at the automaker’s Toledo, Ohio, factory—and, The Chicago Tribune reports, a nonprofit group plans to open a 56,000-square-foot museum in metropolitan Toledo in 2022 devoted to the history of the Jeep and its fandom.

The project is expected to cost $40 million, and the group anticipates about 250,000 visitors per year.

An outdoor track where Jeeps can be driven will be among the museum’s exhibits, group members told the Tribune, and there’s been discussion about building a hotel nearby. The group has worked to model the facility around the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee and the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Planners are keeping the location quiet while the contract is finalized.

“It’ll be on that list of [top] institutions in our community that draw visitors into Toledo,” said Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz, who put it “up there” with The Toledo Museum of Art, the Toledo Zoo, and other attractions.

Jeep’s parent company, Fiat Chrysler Automotive, has been very involved in the planning, groups members said.

“We are thrilled by this initiative to honor the heritage of such an iconic brand, and celebrate the women and men who have dedicated their lives to building these vehicles for nearly 80 years,” Fiat Chrysler said in a statement. “We look forward to working with [the] Toledo community leaders to bring this interactive Jeep experience to life.”

Research contact: @Jeep