By now the public knows about PPE, or personal protective equipment: masks, goggles and face shields. But medical scrubs, the uniform healthcare workers wear, are also an important part of protecting them — and their families after they come home.
“They are easy to change [in and out of] and keep down germs,” said Reyna Chavez, owner of Scrubs on the Run. The store sells scrubs and other medical uniforms and supplies from locations in Oxnard, Thousand Oaks and Ventura. “We are the only supplier from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles.”
“I think our industry will be ok and probably stronger than before,” said Chavez, who has seen an influx of customers that were not previously wearing scrubs. The whole design is to “protect yourself and cleanliness. They are a better barrier than regular clothes and scrubs are very fashion forward.”
On March 20, she closed the Oxnard location for a month. Even though she didn’t have to lay off any employees — staff went to other locations — business is still down. She received a loan through Women’s Economic Ventures.
“The WEV loan came through much faster than the PPE loan or through our normal bank,” said Chavez. “It closed in three days. We were able to stay open, but our numbers were down. It’s just not business as normal.”
Chavez said that when the pandemic hit Ventura County, a lot of workers in healthcare settings wanted scrubs. The company was already selling online, but with an all-sales-final policy due to the coronavirus, “It can be tricky if you’ve never worn scrubs before” to get the fit right. Now, she says scrubs are required in many departments as part of PPE and people are needing them the next day. “They would say they can’t go to work tomorrow without scrubs.”
After the Oxnard location closed, Scrubs on the Run had to double up its employees in the Ventura and Thousand Oaks shops due to new health and safety protocols. Since it is an essential business, it remained open. But the stores had to develop processes for steam sterilizing uniforms that were tried on, and keeping a “quarantine rack” so customers are touching fewer items.
The shop has started selling cloth masks made locally, and recently received a shipment of face shields. Chavez says some offices are wanting their employees to have that protection, but if they need to talk on the phone, the face shields are much easier than masks.
“It is day to day. We are trying to keep up with all the changes,” said Chavez about the current business operations. “We put a plan together and present it to staff. We never did Zoom meetings, now we are doing them once a week. And this might be the new way of shopping, it’s working. Everyone has remained flexible and helpful.”
Even though Scrubs on the Run has an online presence, Chavez said the focus is “on our community.” She is trying to develop relationships with Ventura County hospitals, hoping they will switch to supporting a local supplier of uniforms and scrubs.
“They use out of state suppliers, one in Texas. CMH [Community Memorial Hospital] is literally in our backyard,” Chavez said. She was in talks with Los Robles Hospital in Thousand Oaks before the pandemic. “We have a relationship with [the CMH] residency program, providing their lab coats. But scrubs [orders] are filled by an out of state company still.”
“We will be more successful if we help each other to rebuild our community.”