New England Flag & Banner’s president, Ned Flynn, is proud to still be manufacturing locally in a 14,000-square-foot facility in Watertown, where workers not only painstakingly applique banners but also craft wooden flag poles and metal brackets.
“We’ve always stuck to the classic way of doing it, in lieu of subpar vinyl methods that some competitors use, and that’s allowed us to dominate the industry,” said Flynn, 55, whose company produces 400 to 500 flags a month, including the Boston Bruins and Boston Celtics championship banners as well as thousands of custom flags for pro, college, and high school sports teams.
You bought the company seven years ago. What was the biggest surprise to you when learning about the operations?
I didn’t expect to see such a high level of craftsmanship among the shop people, some of whom have been here for 30 years.
We had six seamstresses, cutters, and layout people when I came on board, and now we’re up to 20. They’re highly paid with benefits and have a lot of pride in their abilities.
Breakaway banners are a big trend now. How are these made?
Breakaway banners are widely popular for high schools in southern states — they’re held by cheerleaders so the athletes can burst through and make a dramatic entrance on the field. They’re made of two banners sewn together with a strip of Velcro between the two. The first player goes through and rips it open, and the rest follow.
What’s the most unusual banner that you’ve made?
I got an e-mail a few years ago from someone who wanted a 27-star US flag. I e-mailed him back, asking about the significance of the 27 stars. It turned out he was an Army Ranger captain from Florida, based in Afghanistan, and wanted the flag to show his Floridian roots —
What goes into making a flag like the Bruins championship banner?
First, the image is sent to the plotter, which is essentially a machine that prints out a stencil of all the lines in the vector art. The paper has little holes in it, and the layout person takes the stencil and lays it over three 10-by-15 sheets of fabric. She runs chalk over the perforated holes in the stencil and then the sewer stitches the lines, and the banner goes to cutting. If the applique is black and white, then gold, the white and black will be cut away so only the gold shows. The end result is a three-dimensional look with raised fabric. Because of the bright lights of the TD Garden, we also take a blackout liner, pin it all together, then stretch the fabric as tight as possible so that when it hangs, it will not wrinkle. The final touches are joining the layers together, adding grommets and hole pockets, then our label and a lucky penny.
What’s a fun fact about a Boston championship flag?
I’m sometimes asked, “Why are some Boston Celtics emblems white in the middle and others green?” White indicates a win on home court, while green signifies the team clinched the championship while away.
Cindy Atoji Keene can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.