SKOWHEGAN — When a customer walked into Maine Stitching Specialties a few weeks ago to ask if the company could make a Ukrainian flag, owner Bill Swain had no idea it would take off like it did.
At the time, the company focused on making American flags to stock up for the busy spring and summer season when they are usually in high demand.
Workers at the manufacturing plant have now shifted focus and are making Ukrainian flags as fast as orders come in. Orders nationwide are expected to exceed 1,000 by the end of the week, Swain said Tuesday.
“It was a pleasant surprise that we got so much interest,” he said.
Swain was installing grommets in the flags on Tuesday morning, helping in what he says is a very “labour-intensive” process to make flags.
“Even a relatively simple design has a number of steps,” he said.
Swain’s wife and co-owner of the business, Julie Swain, came up with the idea of donating 20% of sales to World Central Kitchen, an organization that provides meals to Ukrainian refugees.
Bill Swain said he expects to be able to donate several thousand dollars once orders for the flag slow down.
Flags were never intended to be a “money-maker”, he said. The Swains see it as a way to fill a need and contribute to a cause that helps Ukrainians displaced by the Russian invasion of their country.
“It will be a huge contribution that I think many of our customers were happy to support and support the Ukrainian people by flying their flag,” Swain said.
The surge in orders likely increased the total number of flags sold by the company by 15%, he said.
The flags are available in different sizes and range in price from $15 to $52. The most popular size is 3 by 5 feet, the standard flag size.
The Swains took over Dirigo Stitching’s former factory in Skowhegan in 2015.
Julie Swain the year before started making bright orange dog vests. The vests, now part of the couple’s Dog Not Gone product line, have grown in popularity, leading them to take over Dirigo Stitching from outgoing owner Peter Schultz.
In addition to the American flag, Maine Stitching Specialties manufactures Maine state flags and the 1901 Maine state flag with the famous pine tree logo, but flags are only a small part of the business. .
The company remains primarily engaged in manufacturing commercial products such as hotel draperies or hospital privacy curtains, as well as the Dog Not Gone line and insect and tick repellent equipment for pets. and people.
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