Business & Economy

As panel completes work, St. Cloud store sees sales of current Minnesota state flag spike

A person checks the flag
Keeping an inventory of the Minnesota state flag has been a challenge for Tim Coil ever since its redesign drew more attention in the media on Thursday in St. Cloud. The only one visitors will see currently at Coil’s Flags and Flagpoles in St. Cloud is the one on display.
Paul Middlestaedt for MPR News

Even as a commission wraps up its design of a new state flag, one store in central Minnesota is doing brisk sales of the current flag.

Coil’s Flags and Flagpoles in St. Cloud sells all things flag-related: U.S. flags, military and veteran flags, police and fire department flags. But the item store owner Tim Coil said he can’t keep in stock is the current Minnesota state flag.

“This has been building for about two or three months, when they first started talking about it,” Coil said. “People started to panic. They wanted to make sure that they could get their hands on the current flag before it’s gone.”

A person poses for a portrait
Tim Coil owner of Coil’s Flags and Flagpoles has a retail location on Thursday in St. Cloud.
Paul Middlestaedt for MPR News

Business really picked up after Coil did a couple of interviews on local radio stations. He had 150 state flags delivered Tuesday of last week. By 1 p.m. Friday, they were sold out. 

“People come in and buy flags for Christmas gifts,” Coil said. “Everybody who walked in, I said, ‘How many Minnesota flags do you want?’ They’d look at me and smile. Because I knew what they were here for.”

The store is sold out of the current state flag. Coil said he’s expecting to get more in the week of Jan. 8. About 50 customers have already pre-ordered them.

Some people are buying the flags as keepsakes, Coil said. For others, it’s a sort of protest. They don’t like the new design and don’t think the old flag needed to change.

A person poses for a portrait
Tim Coil hasn’t been able to keep the current Minnesota state flag in stock due to high demand at Coil’s Flags and Flagpoles on Thursday in St. Cloud.
Paul Middlestaedt for MPR News

“I’ve had people tell me they’re buying them and they’re buying stock in them because they’re going to fly the current flag as long as they can,” Coil said. “They don’t even want to fly the new one.”

The original Minnesota flag — the state seal on a blue background — drew criticism for its cluttered design and depiction of a Native American riding off on horseback into the distance.

The Legislature established a commission to redesign both the flag and seal. Members of the State Emblems Redesign Commission this week wrapped up their work finalizing a report for the Minnesota Legislature.

The document lays out the process used to pick a new state flag and seal over the last four months and the significance behind the designs they chose.

Secretary of State Steve Simon said the panel should be pleased with the outcome. And he proposed a celebration on Statehood Day – May 11 – where the new flag and seal will replace current ones.

“I think we really tried to center this on the public and what was best for the public,” Simon said. “We all tried when we could to put aside our own personal tastes and preferences and think about what would suit the public and in the end we came up with really two strong, meaningful, enduring new emblems.”

A Minnesota state flag
The official seal for the state of Minnesota is also currently the same one used on the state’s flag, both of which are currently being redesigned.
Paul Middlestaedt for MPR News

But not everyone agreed. Republican lawmakers on the commission raised concerns about the seal design and the way the panel took feedback from the public.

“Largely in this process the people were not listened to,” state Sen. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, said, noting he would raise his concerns in a separate report. “I know our goal in the minority report is for Minnesota to be heard and I and others will be having that conversation this next session.”

Drazkowski said he would bring up the new emblems next year when the Legislature reconvenes. He and others have said Minnesotans should be able to vote on whether to keep them.

A person check the flags
The only Minnesota state flag Tim Coil has at his St. Cloud store is the one he has for his display at Coil’s Flags and Flagpoles on Thursday in St. Cloud.
Paul Middlestaedt for MPR News

As it stands, the new emblems will take effect in May unless lawmakers override them.

Coil said personally, he isn’t thrilled with the new flag, which features a dark blue abstract shape of the state, a North Star and a light blue field representing water. But he said he’ll likely sell them once they’re available.

“I don’t have a choice but to do it. I’ll probably buy two or three of them,” he added with a laugh.

Flags are seen
The current version of the Minnesota state flag blows in the wind in front of St. Cloud City Hall on Thursday.
Paul Middlestaedt for MPR News