Flag Shop re-opens, ready to create military ensigns

Paul Servos practices applique-sewing

Paul Servos, co-owner of the Flag Shop, practices a technique called applique-sewing, in which an image is sewn onto both sides of a flag to give the impression of a flat image.

The flag-lined store front on Fort Street is suggestive of what is offered beyond its doors.

Inside the newly re-opened Flag Shop is a vast inventory of international flags, ensigns and anything flag related.

Owners Paul and Maggie Servos opened the Flag Shop, with the help of Mayor Dean Fortin, Feb. 15, National Flag Day. It’s one of 13 Flag Shops across Canada, a franchise owned by Vancouver-based Textile Image Inc.

“I’d been looking for a small business and a friend of mine suggested I look into the Flag Shop,” says Servos. “I’ve always had a strong connection to nautical life, so it seemed like a perfect fit.”

Servos has come out of early retirement to run the shop. In 2010 he stepped down as CEO of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority and spent more than a year travelling the world. While he says the break was nice, it wasn’t long before he got restless.

“When you spend most of your life working it’s hard to just give it up,” he says.

The shop was owned by Jamie and Chantal Webb for 14 years. They sold it in 2009, but it closed shortly afterwards.

Under the encouragement of Webb, Servos seized the opportunity to bring a full service flag shop back to Victoria. 

“Especially in a navy town like Victoria there is a huge market for flags,” says Servos. “We hope that if the military needs flags made they’ll come here.”

Most businesses that sell flags are what Servos calls “catalogue shops”; the inventory is ordered in only when the customer needs it, which requires days to deliver.

His store is prepared for the customer’s needs with a backroom full of sewing machines and bolts of fabric ready to create a flag, and a stock room with almost every flag imaginable.

“When someone comes here for a flag we want them to know they’ll walk out with it,” says Servos. “If they’re looking for something unique, we can do that to.”

The Flag Shop’s full fabrication room produces custom flags using a process called appliqué-sewing. It involves sewing an image on to both sides of a flag and snipping the seams to the thread so it looks like a flat image.

Servos has a very experienced seamstress in Carmen Thompson, who worked for past owners of the Flag Shop.

“It’s not the kind of sewing that most people are used to,” says Servos. “We’re really lucky to have Carmen around because hand-making flags can be finicky work.”

The Flag Shop has already had a few custom orders come through, including a Canadian flag in green instead of red, a few business logo flags, and a very specialized Australian flag.

“We made it for an Australian man who lives here,” says Servos. “The Australian flag shows the stars most visible from the Southern Hemisphere, so we made him one with the Big Dipper on it to reflect his new home.”

Servos says this kind of attention to detail and customer service is important to his business.

“We want our customers to be confident in our abilities,” he says. “If they need something special we will be able to supply it. That’s all that matters.”

-Shawn O’Hara, Staff Writer

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