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Charlotte-area dealers report sales spike for Confederate flag

One of the two Confederate flags left in Bob’s Flag in Pineville. This flag is known as the second national flag of the Confederate States of America.
One of the two Confederate flags left in Bob’s Flag in Pineville. This flag is known as the second national flag of the Confederate States of America. shardiman@charlotteobserver.com

Flag dealers across North Carolina have seen a run on Confederate flags this week after major manufacturers vowed to stop making them. That decision came in response to the social and political outcry over the flag’s lingering prominence in Southern culture following the shooting in Charleston.

After photos emerged online of shooting suspect Dylann Roof with the Confederate battle flag, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley called for the flag be removed from State House grounds in Columbia. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said Monday he wants to change state law to forbid specialty license plates being made that bear it. All of this led flag makers to halt manufacturing.

Local flag dealers aren’t happy. Some say the flag and its history have been taken out of context.

Ernie Creech, owner of Conder Flag Company, a Charlotte flag distributor, said he received an email from the Pennsylvania-based Flag Manufacturers Association of America on Tuesday afternoon saying that the major flag manufacturers in the U.S. were going to stop making the flags.

Creech isn’t sure if that’s a good decision. “I understand it from their standpoint... I feel like (the flag’s) been taken out of context a little bit.”

He added that he thinks the people who use the flags for historical purposes – whether it’s in their homes or for battle reenactments – will be harmed the most.

Conder Flag has seen a “very brisk” uptick in orders, but “it’s still not a big seller,” and the recent surge in popularity hasn’t allowed it to surpass the U.S. flag. Creech said before this week, he typically sold three to four Confederate flags a month. He said he isn’t sure how much he’s sold, but Conder will continue to fill orders until it runs out. He said customers have been angered when they’ve learned about the manufacturing halt, and he’s received negative emails about it.

In Pineville, Bob’s Flags co-owner Liz Baumgart said her customers have been upset, too, and one man was angry because he didn’t like being told what he couldn’t have. Baumgart said her shop didn’t sell many Confederate flags before this week, maybe two a month.

“Today, everyone in the world had a great need for one,” Baumgart said, adding her store has received about 30 calls and emails Wednesday regarding the flags’ availability. There are two Confederate flags left in the shop. Both are the second national flag of the Confederacy, which features what’s commonly known as the Confederate battle flag in the left upper corner on a white field.

Both Baumgart and Creech see the Confederate pieces they sell as having a ready place among their other historical flags.

“To make the blatant attacks on this flag is silly,” Baumgart said. “I hate to see a piece of our history attacked,” saying the flag is laden with historical meaning for people who trace their heritage back to the Civil War.

Across the state, other dealers saw similar increased interest. In Rocky Mount, Northstar Flags & Flagpoles saw an uptick in calls regarding its availability. Operations manager Bryan Walker said the company, which prints its own flags, will no longer print them for anything but a motion picture, play or historical use.

He said the company doesn’t print Nazi swastikas because of the hate it represents, and they’re taking a similar stance with the Confederate flag.

Asheville’s Broward Flag Company has sold 18 Confederate flags this week. Owner Bob Barcafer said he, like most flag dealers, want to continue selling the product. He said the National Independent Flag Dealers Association sent a survey this week asking dealers if they wanted to continue selling the flag, and the survey’s results showed overwhelming support for continued sales.

Dealers cautioned that just because U.S. manufacturers stopped making the product didn’t mean it was going to go away.

“The only ones you would be able to buy is imports from China, unfortunately,” Barcafer said.

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