LISBON — As the nation’s 238th birthday approaches, the place for last-minute patriotic display purchases, be they online or in person, is once again The American Flag Store, which proudly carries the Valley Forge line of 100-percent, made in the USA flags.
Owned and operated by Robert and Karen Watson, The American Flag Store opened for business in 2006 online and a year later added a bricks and mortar space in downtown Lisbon, eventually moving to their current location at 6 South Main Street.
“We came here on vacation, fell in love and have been here for 15 years,” said Robert Watson, who before he and his wife moved north, had worked for more than 20 years as an emergency medical technician in his home state of Pennsylvania.
After relocating to Lisbon, the Watsons thought about the kind of businesses they could start, and they hit upon a flag store.
“Our family has always been into flags,” Watson said, adding that some members also served in the U.S. military, while all flew the flag proudly every chance they got.
“We thought ‘why not?’” said Watson, pointing out that “there was a need here” in that while a person can buy a flag at just about any retailer, stores that carried an extensive inventory, including American-made flags, were rare, especially in the North Country.
Starting online at theamericanflagstore.com, The American Flag Store has grown and has customers both near and far, Watson said.
Although Independence Day is probably the most flag-waving of American holidays, the Memorial Day season is when Watson said he and his wife sell the most flags.
“We start getting busy in March, after Town Meeting, when towns get their budgets,” which in many cases come with appropriations for patriotic displays, and especially for “stick flags” that are placed on the graves of a community’s war dead, Watson said.
The flag season peaks in September, Watson said, but thanks to online sales, “even in the dead of winter, we’re pretty busy.”
Although he declined to provide specific numbers, Watson said over the last two years, “our sales have at least tripled,” thanks in part, he said, to being the only flag store in the North Country. The American Flag Store ships flags all over the U.S. as well as overseas.
Prior to the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and reduction of forces in Afghanistan, representatives of the U.S. government in both those countries would regularly buy hundreds of flags at a time, Watson said.
The store’s most popular offering is a 3-by-5-foot nylon, Valley Forge flag, which is designed in Wyomissing, Pa., and is “100 percent American made” at plants in South Carolina, said Watson, and sells for $33.
Got a really big flag pole? The American Flag Store also carries a 30-by-60-foot VF American flag, which costs $2,300.
In addition to flags of states, nations and branches of the armed forces, The American Flag Store has hardware to mount and display flags as well as equipment to repair or construct flag poles. The Watsons can also custom-order flags and design them for manufacture by a third party. Their handiwork — a purple lilac banner welcoming visitors to Lisbon — hangs throughout the downtown.