Pair a restaurant owner with a fashion designer and what do you get?

Cloth face masks with flair and a fundraiser for the Food Group, a Twin Cities nonprofit.

Yes, indeed, these cloth masks shout “I have style during a pandemic” in a way that our own makeshift versions, prepared with long-forgotten, dusty sewing machines, do not.

The collaborators are Tracy Singleton, owner of the Birchwood Cafe in Minneapolis, and Joy Teiken, a fashion designer whose Minneapolis-based business is Joynoëlle.

Teiken had already been making cloth masks for nurses she knew and wanted to expand her effort. The two longtime friends realized the potential of the masks as a fundraiser, and Singleton’s prior support of the Food Group made the connection.

The cloth masks use a 1500 MPR (microparticle performance rating) ultra-allergen filter sandwiched between two layers of 100% cotton. The colorful designs are washable, reusable and reversible (with one side patterned and the other plain). Friends are buying and donating high-quality plain-colored sheets for the masks, and Teiken has plenty of her own patterned fabrics to use. The filters come from Welna ll Hardware in the Seward neighborhood, where the restaurant is located.

The masks cost $20, with 100% of proceeds going to support the Food Group. They are available for curbside pickup and delivery.

“Joy is making them as fast as she can, and has a call out to other seamstresses,” said Singleton in an interview. Though this started as something to do during the state’s shelter-in-place time frame, it has now become a cottage industry, though one beholden to some degree on the availability of elastic. “We’ll continue as long as we can keep getting supplies,” said Singleton, who noted that some masks had ties rather than elastic when the supply of the latter was elusive.

The first 40 masks sold out immediately. Their daily availability is noted on the restaurant’s website on the page where takeout food orders are made on, for pickup or delivery on Wednesday through Sundays.

The Birchwood also has another fundraiser — this one virtual — for the Food Group, through April. For every $25 donated at, customers receive a promo code for $5 off their next curbside pickup or delivery purchase of $25 or more. That donation provides 50 meals for those most affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

The Food Group, formerly the Emergency Foodshelf Network, focuses on nutritious food to build community. Among its many efforts, the nonprofit supports 170 food shelves, provides a traveling grocery store to 37 sites and works with new farmers, many of them immigrants, through Big River Farms. Find out more at