Chicago hair product company pivots during pandemic to make hand sanitizer, help community

Chicago's Very Own

From hair gel to sanitizing gel. That is one of the manufacturing changes the president of a Chicago hair product company is making during this pandemic. 

And with a research and development team on site, Jory Luster  has been able to close the gap for people in need of such products, including those on the frontlines.   

For more than six decades Luster Products Inc. has provided hair care products to clients around the world, while always providing for the local community.

But Luster said the impact of the coronavirus is something he never would have imagined in his wildest dreams.

”I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said. “And I won’t be able to define any of this until it’s in our rear view mirror.”

Luster said two months ago when the pandemic began to take hold, he along with company employees, found themselves short on hand sanitizer, but with one huge difference.

“We had the capability and the materials to make at least enough here for us at Luster Products and our families,” he said.

A few weeks ago, after ramping up production of hand sanitizer, Luster and his colleagues donated several cases  of hand sanitizer to the Matthews House, a homeless shelter, and to Larabida Hospital in Chicago.

“We want to make sure that the people that are serving the public, they have adequate supply of hand sanitizer,” Luster said. “And then if they have a good idea of the people they will be encountering, we will provide some to them as well. “

With an increase in demand Luster said he now also sells the sanitizer.  

But even with the proper tools, ingredients are not always readily available and he occasionally runs out.  His last batch was roughly 5000 lbs of sanitizer.

 “Everything is in high demand right now,” he said. “Packaging is in high demand and so is the alcohol Is in high demand.  It’s a juggling act. “   

The sales of sanitizer may help soften the blow to his business but Luster said this virus has definitely taken it’s toll. 

 “It’s had a devastating effect on everything we do,” he said. “I’ve got friend that have taken ill I have friends that have lost their lives.”

But he said he finds comfort in helping others especially during these unprecedented times.

 “You get a warm and fuzzy feeling because of something that’s needed,” he said. “They are elated let me tell you they are really excited.”

Luster said he plans to keep hand sanitizer as part of his product line, believing that COVID-19 has changed the way the public will view cleanliness for years to come.    

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