RapidMask2Go machines, like this one in NYC's Columbus Circle, are now set up in Suburban Station

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If you forget your mask or lose it while you’re in Center City, there’s now an easy way to get another one: hit up one of the new PPE vending machines.

Four grab-and-go PPE dispensers, thought to be Philadelphia’s first, are set to open Tuesday afternoon in Suburban Station. They’re a product of a company called RapidMask2Go, which already operates 10 mask vending machines in NYC.

Another outfit from Philly entrepreneurs Ben Waxman and Nathanial Parks are also getting into the PPE vending game, with a plan to offer 32-slot machines offered to private companies like hotels and large commercial and residential buildings. In exchange, the entities will get 10% of the vending machine’s profits.

Meanwhile, RapidMask2Go’s machines are spread around the underground transit concourse.

Two are located on the main Regional Rail platform, near the benches and ticket booth. Two others are in the corridor leading east, where the food stores are: one near Nutty World around 16th Street and the last near Tiffany’s Bakery next to the 15th Street entrance.

Founder David Edelman worked with leasing company AthenianRazak to get the RapidMask2Go machines set up there. They’ll be stocked with three-ply surgical masks, hand sanitizer, and non-alcohol antibacterial wipes called Trip Wipes. Each item will cost $3, payable via cash, card or contactless methods.

In pre-pandemic times, more than 100,000 people traveled through Suburban Station on a daily basis, per the transit authority. Commuting is slowly ramping back up, with most Regional Rail returning now running hourly schedules.

“SEPTA requires customers and employees to wear face coverings,” said SEPTA spokesperson Andrew Busch, “so this could be helpful to someone who does not have one with them.”

When it’s up and running, products offered by the Philly-based operation will range from $1 reusable cloth masks, pricier packs of KN93 and three-ply paper masks, disinfecting wipes and spray, hand sanitizer and an $80 no-contact thermometer, Waxman told Billy Penn. They’re still finalizing details, but have rolled out a website and plan to have a device installed in South Philly by next week.

A lot has changed since RapidMask2Go’s Edelman first got the idea to sell masks four months ago

The 30-year-old NYC resident works in real estate and development, and was especially mindful of having proper PPE because his son is high risk, he said. He wanted to purchase masks for his construction workers, but in late February, found them nearly impossible to procure.

“We tried ordering online, they never showed up,” Edelman recalled. “There were a lot of fake sites out there pretending to sell protective equipment.”

When he finally scored face coverings, he was left with a massive surplus and needed to distribute them. He launched rapidmask2go.com to sell his KN95 masks online. He later acquired a vending machine and tucked it inside a vacant storefront on Delancey and Clinton streets in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

KN95 and surgical masks are now much easier to come by, and the CDC has approved and recommended reusable cloth face coverings as well. On SEPTA, Busch said that could be “something as simple as an old shirt or other piece of cloth.”

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Layla A. Jones

Layla A. Jones (she/her) was a general assignment reporter for Billy Penn from 2019 to 2021. Her work has helped underserved community organizations, earned free repairs for property owners who sustained...