Old Glory a boon for his business

MICHAEL HINKELMAN / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Tim O'Connor, longtime owner of Humphrys Flag Co.
MICHAEL HINKELMAN / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Tim O'Connor, longtime owner of Humphrys Flag Co.
Posted: May 24, 2013

TIM O'CONNOR OWNS Humphrys Flag Co., one of the nation's oldest custom-flag manufacturers. O'Connor, 65, of North Coventry, Chester County, bought the company in 1976. It's known for its artistry and variety of flags. The retail store is on Arch Street near 3rd in Old City.

Q: How many American flags do you sell in a year?

A: I'd say 2,500 to 3,000. We make them in our 30,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Pottstown.

Q: How many flags of all kinds do you sell annually?

A: Whew, 20,000 to 25,000. A lot of them are corporate flags, that's really the bulk of our business. Nikon orders 80 to 200 [corporate] flags at a time. A lot of our business is also table covers, where you go to a trade show and the [corporate] logo is on the front of the table cover. We also make those corporate backdrops you see at press conferences.

Q: Who are your clients?

A: All the major auto companies. We've made a lot of stuff for Rohm & Haas and Comcast. We also work with nonprofits and make all the country flags along the [Ben Franklin] Parkway. They're all 6-by-10-feet, and about 116 countries are represented. We make those several times a year.

Q: Humphrys is known for its applique method of making flags. Please explain that.

A: Say you wanted an "A" on a flag. You would draw the "A" on a piece of nylon, pin it to what's going to be the background and use a machine to zigzag around the "A" and cut away the material you don't want. It's often the cheapest way to make a flag, even though it sounds labor-intensive. Applique is probably used in 60 percent of the flags we make.

Q: What separates you from your competitors?

A: One of the largest custom flagmakers in the country does all its manufacturing in Sri Lanka. We make everything here, and it's mostly nylon, so even the materials are domestic. I don't think anybody exceeds us in quality.

Q: What do the American flags typically sell for?

A: You can almost use the size and just turn it into dollars. So a 3-by-5-foot flag is around $35.

Q: What's your biggest seller for the Memorial Day holiday?

A: The American flag, and there's a huge spike in sales in the POW/MIA flag. We'll probably sell several hundred of each.

Q: How big a business is this?

A: We do about $3 million a year in gross sales.

Q: How many employees?

A: We have 20 - 16 in Pottstown and four in Old City. It's hard to find people who want to sew.

Q: Located across from the Betsy Ross House is good, huh?

A: There's no question we actually make American flags, but there is some question as to whether Betsy Ross really did. So we lend some legitimacy to the Betsy Ross legend.


On Twitter: @MHinkelman

Online: ph.ly/YourBusiness

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