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DL retailers deal with new flag law

DETROIT LAKES - A new law requiring American flags sold in Minnesota to have been made in the U.S.A. has not hurt sales, and may have helped, according to some Detroit Lakes retailers.

"We've probably sold more of them, now that people are hearing about it," said Dan Purkat, store manager at L&M Fleet. "We only had one imported flag, anyway -- a little hand-held flag. People have always been willing to pay a little more to get the U.S. product."

Fleet, Kmart, Wal-Mart and Menards all stock American-made flags, though several also carry bunting, flag bows, wind spins and other flag-themed products made in China or Guatemala.

The law only requires the flag itself to be U.S.-made.

Even flag kits with American-made flags contain poles and hardware made overseas.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper reported that the new law effectively doubled the cost of American flags in Minnesota, but a manager at Wal-Mart said the Detroit Lakes store has not received any negative feedback on the cost of flags.

Wal-Mart switched to American-made flags in the spring, including the flags that it flies over its stores.

Over the weekend, a woman called the Detroit Lakes Police Department to report that Menards was selling flags made in China.

A police investigator looked up the law to confirm it (it is punishable by a $1,000 fine) then called Menards to inform the store about the complaint.

Managers immediately pulled the foreign-made product off the shelves. They said the company later looked into the law and found that the products were not illegal, since they were not American flags, just red, white and blue bunting and similar decorative items. Corporate spokesmen were not immediately available for Menards and Wal-Mart.

Though the Minnesota law is one of the toughest in the nation, Purkat, the Fleet manager, believes it is a good one.

"The flag itself has to be U.S.-made and I think that's a great thing, I really do," he said.