By Kathianne Boniello
Ah, the power of words.
When U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) encouraged Americans to fly the country’s flag last week as a symbol of the nation’s strength in the wake of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks, little did he know how quickly Queens residents would try to take him up on his proposal.
Shop owners around the borough agreed this week that the demand for the American flag has increased at a dizzying rate since the Sept. 11 attacks on the Twin Towers and Schumer’s statements, causing a near shortage of American flags.
At Five Boro Flag, Banner & Sign Inc. in Queens Village, phones have been ringing constantly and people lined up in the rain last week to buy Old Glory, graphic designer Stephen Price said.
“We’ve had to ration them out,” Price said of Five Boro’s recent sales of the American flag. “Some people are ordering 150 or 75 at a time. One person called to order 15,000.”
Price said Schumer’s “fly your flags” message to Americans Sept. 12 definitely helped boost business.
“It’s never been like this,” he said. “It makes the Fourth of July look like I don’t know what.”
Business was much the same across the borough at Delta Signs & Flags in Ridgewood, owner and Yemen-native Fred Vaynman said Monday.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Vaynman, who pointed out business began to boom “last week since Tuesday and it hasn’t stopped.”
Vaynman said he has received more than 2,000 calls for flags, but he has been saddened by some of the stories accompanying the customers’ requests.
“One lady came in with a flag, and she needed a flagpole,” he said. “The flag was from when her son was killed in Vietnam. She opened the flag here for the first time since that funeral — all the flower petals from the funeral fell out.”
A telephone interview with Vaynman was repeatedly interrupted as he solemnly turned away requests for the American flag.
“No, no American flags,” he told them. “Maybe next week.”
Five Boro Flags and the Bayside Sign Co. Inc. said they were expecting shipments of the American flag later this week.
At the Bayside Sign Co., owner John Royon said demand has been fast and furious.
“We had 300 in on Saturday and 300 went in an hour and a half,” Royon said. “We have 150 people on a waiting list.”
“Everyone from all different nationalities have been coming in as well,” he said. Royon said the customers have reflected the diversity of Queens, including Asian and Indian communities.
Catering to the demand for the American flag and the renewed sense of patriotism in the borough has given Royon a feeling of comfort.
“It’s a good feeling to do this,” he said. “We’re sorry for people who lost their lives and friends. I’ve very comfortable with what we’re doing for the community.”
American flags, which are traditionally hung in Little Neck for the annual Memorial Day parade, have also reappeared on Northern Boulevard.
But while people throughout the borough have donated blood, supplies to the relief effort or money to the World Trade Center rescue workers, some took their patriotic feelings straight to the streets.
Tanya Fiebert, 15, of Fresh Meadows, spent her Saturday afternoon with five or six friends on Bell Boulevard, but she was not shopping.
With posters of the American flag, Fiebert and her friends encouraged drivers to “Honk if You Love America.”
“I’m too young to give blood and I don’t have money to give,” she said. “I wanted to come out and show my support.”
Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.