OCEAN CITY – For 27 years, the Country Flag Shop has been turning out a variety of flags, ranging from recreational to military use, but according to owner Bruce Nelson, business won’t be slowing or coming to an end anytime soon.
Nelson has been operating out of his Rotherwood Lane location just outside of Ocean Pines for the past 27 years, supplying both locals and visitors with custom flags and banners to be used for business, recreational or residential use. After 27 years in the business, Nelson says he couldn’t imagine doing anything else with his time.
Nelson originally started in the steel industry, but eventually began dabbling in specialized advertising with items such as pens, pencils, calendars and open flags. After the collapse of the steel industry in the early 70’s, Nelson decided to pursue specialized advertising with flags full-time, but ran into a few roadblocks along the way.
Nelson began his quest to become a local flag dealer by contacting what he had been assured was the best flag dealer in the business, Annin. Nelson, but he did not realize that it was around the time of the bicentennial, an undoubtedly busy time for the flag industry. He was immediately told the company was not interested in hiring him and was quickly hung up on. Nelson decided to bide his time and about a year later made another phone call to Annin Nelson and encountered a better response the second time around. The company apologized after hearing his story, explaining that it was a busy time and that the personnel manning the phones had been temporary employees. Three weeks later, Nelson was officially a flag dealer for the company, and, according to Nelson, the rest is history.
Twenty-seven years later, Nelson is still a dealer for Annin Nelson and now he represents five U.S. and one Canadian flag companies. Flags can range from military, state and historic to football, symbolic and foreign countries and come in a variety of sizes and colors. With the football season in high gear, football flags have been selling rapidly. Nelson noted that he recently ran out of Redskins flags, despite overstocking them.
Custom flags are also available through the Country Flag Shop. Nelson explained that customers bring in their design and select colors from his extensive color chart. Nelson then sends the design out to three companies to get a variety of quotes on prices.
“That way they aren’t just getting a price quote from me, but from three different companies,” he explained.
After the customer chooses a company, the flag can be expected within anywhere from three to six weeks.
Nelson conceded that he had no estimate of how many flags he sells in one year, but instead presented a photo album of the variety of flags that have left the shop over the years. Custom flags for Sea Colony, various police departments, beach patrols, and many local restaurants and businesses have been sold through the Country Flag Shop.
A wide variety of flags are available on-site as well. “You can’t sell from an empty wagon,” Nelson said, noting the importance of remaining well stocked.
“I love what I do, I love the people,” Nelson said, explaining the fulfillment that his job has provided him over the years.
Nelson noted the people he meets as the best part of the job. “I figure, if someone’s buying an American flag, how can they not be a nice person,” he said.
Nelson, a Pennsylvania native, explained that he immediately fell in love with the Eastern Shore, making it his home in 1959. Nelson’s love for the Eastern Shore even inspired him to design an Eastern Shore flag. The flag took him over a year to design and is proudly displayed in Nelson’s shop.
Like most businesses in the resort area, Country Flag Shop is busiest during the summer season. The mix of tourists and locals results in an increase in business and a boom in flags leaving the shop.
Despite the busy times and being in the business for nearly 30 years, Nelson has no intention of closing up shop anytime soon.
“I wouldn’t know what to do with my life,” he said, adding that he would keep at it for as long as his body allowed him to. “I would miss being able to please people, they are the reason I’m in this business.”