COLONIE — A company that just moved to town donated 2,000 face shields to help protect poll workers through this busy election season.
Bokland Custom Visuals began 64 years ago as a photo studio, making high-quality prints for some of the best photographers in the Capital District. While they still do photo work, digital forced the company to change its business plan and then it had to shift gears again, along with everyone else in the world, when COVID-19 hit earlier this year.
“During the beginning of COVID we had to pivot our business to keep afloat. And we were fortunate there was a need for products we could build, namely PPE and acrylic face shields, said Brian Corbett, Bokland’s managing director and vice president. “Once New York started to get the virus under control, the need for face shields the need started to wan and we had some on hand and we thought the BOD would be a good fit, especially this year considering how this election is shaping up.”
Thousands of people waited in line for hours to cast ballots on the first day of early voting on Saturday, Oct. 24. Early voting continues through Nov. 1 and Election Day is Nov. 3.
“We are grateful to Bokland Custom Visuals for helping us keep staff and poll inspectors safe and healthy with their donation of face shields,” said Republican Elections Commissioner Rachel Bledi. “Having businesses in the community partner with government organizations to take part in the fight against the spread of diseases such as COVID-19, is an important step in our efforts to fight back. Ensuring the voting experience is a healthy one, is a top priority for all.”
Unlike so many businesses that were crippled by COVID, Bokland has expanded in large part by adjusting some things in its shop and making PPE.
“So many people recognized us as being a photo lab from bygone days we have changed 180 degrees,” Corbett said. “The savior for us was to do the shields. We were looking to just keep us afloat through the pandemic and we ended up growing because of some of the large jobs we got.”
The company is outfitting poll workers from Albany west to Syracuse and also has a large state contract to outfit a number of Department of Motor Vehicles branches with acrylic partitions. Prior to the pandemic, the company was making a number of real estate signs for Howard Hanna and tavern signs for bars and restaurants across the state. Both industries were hit hard by the pandemic.
“We are rooted in photography and we will always have a part of the business that focuses on photographers and artistic shots,” Corbett said. “Now, we focus on the commercial side of things out of necessity.”
The donation to Albany County, though, was more in response to the pandemic than any commercial endeavor.
“Everybody needs to take some reasonability in days like today, when so many people are worried about how they are effected and there is such tension,” he said. “Doing something that helps everyone is an important thing. We are trying to be good citizens more than anything political.”