Business news from the Fredericksburg region.
Flags flying again in new location
BY CATHY JETT
PENNY AND BILL Smith looked all over Virginia–and even online in Florida—for a new location after closing the Bald Eagle Flag store in Stafford County in March.
But the Spotsylvania County couple kept coming back to the Fredericksburg area.
They finally found what they were looking for in the Salem Professional Center, a two-story brick building just off State Route 3 between Trivett’s Furniture and a RoomStore in Spotsylvania County. They’ll open their doors at 10 a.m. today. Sept. 1
“We’re excited about having a place for our regular customers to find us, and lots of new ones. It’s so nice to start over, just a fresh, fresh start,” Penny Smith said.
She plans to stand in front of the store with a sign on Saturday to let people know that it’s open, but don’t expect her to wave and gyrate like the Lady Liberty who stands outside Liberty Tax Service.
“I’m going to hold my sign
and smile,” Smith said, then laughed. “I’m not dancing or twirling.”
The Smiths have been selling a wide variety of flags—from the made-in-America United States flags that fly over government buildings to the decorative flags and windsocks that decorate lawns—for 32 years.
The couple opened in a 1,300-square-foot space in the Nere Building in southern Stafford 17 years ago. Patriotic customers rushed there after such events as the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and the killing of Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011.
The Smiths decided to move earlier this year due to concerns that their new landlord, Trinity Fellowship International, might eventually turn the building into a church. They held a sale, shut their doors on March 31 and focused on their online business, baldeagleindustries.com.
“We were in shock,” Penny Smith said. “We’d been there so long that it took a while for it to sink in that we were no longer there.”
The couple’s expenses plummeted because they were no longer paying rent, but they also lost about 75 percent of their business, she said. Many customers who’d shopped at the store didn’t make the shift to shopping on their website, baldeagleindustries.com.
“We had a 4-foot by 4-foot sign across the street [from the Nere building] that had our phone number and said, ‘Call us, we’ll deliver,’” Penny Smith said. “That’s how we were surviving.”
For the next five months, the Smiths either shipped online orders or hand delivered them to customers’ homes and businesses or in one of several parking lots in the area. The couple didn’t want people to come to their house to pick up orders because they knew a constant flow of traffic in their subdivision would upset their neighbors.
“We’re very excited to have four walls around us and a warm spot in the winter,” Penny Smith said.
It took the couple months to find the right store location because they wanted an affordable space that didn’t require what’s known in the industry as a “triple net lease.” Tenants who sign them have to pay all real-estate taxes, building insurance and maintenance on the property in addition to any normal fees such as rent.
“In this recession, we want to make sure we can afford to pay a whole year’s lease and are not running a business to support a landlord,” Penny Smith said. “We want to support ourselves.”
The new location is 900 square feet, which is enough to allow display space for U.S., state and national flags and a few decorative flags. They’ll bring in more variety on weekends. Customers can also call ahead if they see something they like online, and the Smiths will have it for them at the store.
“If we had it in our old store,” Penny Smith said, “we will have it available to you at our new store.”
Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407