Sarasota's Flag Man keeps it simple for 42 years

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SARASOTA - Presidents Day is a time to pay tribute to the men who led our country through the ages. It's a day for patriotism and national pride – especially for a Sarasota man whose whole life revolves around patriotism.

They call him the flagman. Ned Ebert has been selling flags in Sarasota for 42 years. With all of the businesses that have come and gone during those years, the flag man is still going strong. And he says it's his customer’s love of their country that keeps his business alive.

There’s no big glitzy store for the Flag Man. He operates out of an old house that looks like a small private home. There are no flashing signs to grab your attention, just a small faded wooden sign marking an unpaved drive into a wooded yard.

Still, the flag man does a booming business. He says there is a great demand for flags. Of course, around 9/11 they were really hot. "They got so hot I didn't have any flags to sell. They were lined up out there waiting to get a flag. It was wonderful."

But Deedee Ebert, Ned's sister who works with him, says after the initial shock of 9/11 wore off, th demand for flags dropped. And it still ebbs and flows.

Their biggest customers are municipalities, businesses, and people who've served in the military. "I think once you're in that position of fighting for your country, which is what they're doing, you never lose that. They still carry that pride of nation with them, and the flag is a symbol of that pride," says Deedee.

She says few young people buy flags. "The young haven't quite caught on, but middle-aged people have flagpoles in their yard. And what we've found is if one person buys a flag pole, there is a chain reaction -- their neighbor gets one, and their neighbor gets one."

Ned says they've had a lot of famous customers over the years. "Sally Jessy Raphael pulled up in the driveway. Her husband came in, and he looked around, and he said ‘you've got flags’," says Ned. He says Sally Jessy came in and spent $350 for flags.

Deedee says the demand for flags is down this year, maybe because of all the political fighting in Washington. "I think right now we're in a slump, but I don't think patriotism will ever go away. There are too many people who still love this country and love the flag."

The Flag Man is located at 4405 17th Street in Sarasota.