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Flags Boost Business

U.S. flags have way of attracting customers
By KATIE ARCIERI, Staff Writer

Each time he heads to Baltimore for an Orioles game, Rocky Ehrlich takes Ritchie Highway, driving past a blur of fairly nondescript businesses, auto dealers and fast-food restaurants.

Then, as he heads up the hill toward the city line, he sees it: the 20-by-30 foot U.S. flag outside Cedar Hill Florist, rippling like ocean waves, high above the glob of speeding cars below.

"I always think of everybody who sacrificed their lives," said Mr. Ehrlich, whose father was wounded in combat during World War II. "It's just what our country stands for."

It's not just Flag Day tomorrow that inspires businesses to hoist Old Glory. From that florist shop in Brooklyn Park to a fitness club in Severna Park and on south to the giant billowing flag outside Fitzgerald Auto Mall on Route 50 near Annapolis, businesses that display the Star Spangled Banner pull at the heartstrings of veterans, ex-military and patriots such as Mr. Ehrlich, advertising and business experts say.

"It couldn't hurt business," said Anthony Souza, president of The Souza Agency, an Annapolis marketing and advertising firm.

"You're going to have something in common with that business, and you're going to go there It creates a sense of goodwill for those who feel that way."

That's true for Mr. Ehrlich, who said he shops at Cedar Hill Florist in part because of the flag and the values it represents.

"It makes me want to deal with that person," said Mr. Ehrlich.

And with the country in the midst of a war on terrorism and immigration issues in the spotlight, companies that display the U.S. flag emit a powerful message that has a "positive effect" on business, said Brian Harlin, owner of The GOP

Shoppe, a Glen Burnie maker of Republican merchandise that also sells U.S. flags.

"They're behind the troops and they're behind this country," he said. "It just gives them a sense of how they feel about this country."

But Wayne Fowler, owner of Fowler Advertising in Glen Burnie, said it's unlikely anyone would pick a business because a flag is waving outside.

"I don't think displaying a flag at a business is any different from displaying a flag in front of a residence," he said. "It's like some people wear bow ties or ties. It doesn't have any meaning, when it comes to retail."

Managers at businesses where a flag is displayed called it a sincere gesture, not a way to generate foot traffic.

Kenny Cresswell, general manager for Fitzgerald Auto Mall in Parole, said the 20-by-38 foot flag outside his business is displayed as a "show of patriotism" that provides a sense of pride for employees. The flag also serves as a landmark for drivers and customers alike, he said.

"We say Fitzgerald on Route 50 with the big flag," said Mr. Cresswell, whose company spends $800 each year on flag maintenance.

The flag weighs 60 pounds and is usually replaced twice a year. It's checked every morning, and although it requires about four hours of maintenance a month it's never down for too long.

"If we don't have that flag up, people call," said Ricky Crowdy, supervisor of sales and services for Fitzgerald Auto Mall.

Bob Dickinson, general manager for Severna Park Racquetball & Fitness Club, said the flag outside his gym was installed in May 2005, as a way to "support the troops."

It's hard to say whether displaying the flag has raked in more business, he said, but it certainly has drawn attention to the company, whose flag is visible from Interstate 97.

"People are just saying that they like the flag," he said.

Cedar Hill Florist founder Sam Kemp, put up the flag as a "nice gesture for the community" about 25 years ago, according to his daughter, Diane Dunivin. It has become a fixed marker in Brooklyn Park.

"They look for the flag," she said. "It they see a rip in it or see a light out, they'll call and let us know."

Published June 13, 2006, The Capital, Annapolis, Md. Copyright 2006 The Capital, Annapolis, Md.

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