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Howard Pinkley was executive secretary for Associated Yacht Clubs when he started supplying boat-racing flags from his basement. Eventually, he started manufacturing the flags because their supply was unreliable.
Forty-four years later, the Point Place business - Flags Sales & Repairs - still crafts them along with a wealth of other banners and flags, including Old Glory made from silk-screened cloth.
Two U.S. flags specially made by the shop with help from local embroiderers will be raised over the National World War II Memorial at its May 29 dedication.
At a time when manufacturers are sending such work overseas, the Point Place business takes pride in sewing many flags and banners sold through the store, said Wendy Beallas, the company's president and Mr. Pinkley's daughter.
"Believe it or not, we make it right here," she said. "That's one of our specialties."
Located in a renovated firehouse built in 1927, the business also installs and maintains flagpoles, repairs flags and banners, and does flag-raising services. Mr. Pinkley, the chief executive, is one of two people who received a patent for an Ohio-made automatic flag unfurler sold in the store and throughout North America.
Karen McCormick has been a longtime customer, personally and for Toledo's Toth Industries Inc., where she is office manager. Flags Sales has designed custom flags for Toth Industries and installed and maintained its flagpole, she said.
"It's a small, family type of business, but they go out of their way to service their customers. They can basically design any type of flag, pretty much, that you want," she said.
Flags Sales does buy embroidered-and-pieced U.S. flags from American manufacturers with equipment to make the tasks cost-efficient, as well as some garden flags, windsocks, and other items sold in its store. It was without American flags for just two days after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and had hard-to-find mounting brackets made locally.
Mr. Pinkley and the business, meanwhile, are active in keeping patriotism alive in the community. He is involved, for example, with putting up 100 flags in Point Place before Memorial Day for the summer, an effort that started 14 years ago when he was president of the local business association.
About six years ago, Flags Sales moved from a plaza to the recently vacated Summit Street firehouse. Its location on a busy corner is ideal and sales have increased 30 percent since the move, Ms. Beallas said.
"I always wanted this building," she said. "I wanted something unique."
Not only was the firehouse built the year Mr. Pinkley was born, but his father and grandfather were volunteers there. Ms. Beallas said firefighters drop by to reminisce and look around the shop, which uses touches such as antique cabinets for displays and awnings with stars and stripes.
"We tried to keep as much as possible of the original structure intact," said Mr. Pinkley, pointing out the first floor's stamped-tin ceiling.
Added Ms. Beallas: "Each year we do a little bit more to enhance the place, yet keeping it looking like it should."
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