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PATRIOTS FINDING FLAGS OUT OF STOCK

That star-spangled banner yet waves its proud colors from porches, sidewalks and street corners across Western New York probably more now than it ever has in the past decade.

This week's high demand for the stars and stripes in the wake of Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, however, has proved that our flag isn't still there -- on the shelves of several area stores, that is.

"Anything red, white and blue is sold out. It's gone," said Sam Heavern, assistant manager of Wal-Mart on Niagara Falls Boulevard in Amherst.

"All out," said Jerry Green, team relations leader at the Target on Walden Avenue in Cheektowaga. "We've been getting a lot of e-mail from our headquarters, and we're trying to replenish the flag supply as soon as possible."

Sue Jaenecke, who operates Flagtastic in the Boulevard Mall, said the staff there brought out several boxes of merchandise from the Fourth of July to satisfy the patriotic fervor.

"It was gone within hours," Jaenecke said. "Not one person who came through my register was buying something that wasn't red, white and blue. At this point, people are buying anything they can get their hands on."

Flagtastic has amassed more than 300 names on a waiting list for U.S. flags.

The owners of Paradis Flag & Fence of Dunkirk, a flag distributor that has been in the business 20 years, say they haven't seen this sort of patriotism in a long time.

"It's been very brisk. From last Wednesday on, we've basically sold everything," said Dave Paradis, co-owner.

Or almost everything.

Western New Yorkers who are having trouble locating Old Glory might consider one of four flags remaining at Paradis as of Wednesday. The catch: They measure 5 by 8 feet and larger.

"We had eight still in stock, but (Chautauqua County) called and asked for four of the 5-by-8 flags today," Paradis said. "Right now, we're being told it'll be three to four more weeks before there's another shipment."

Meanwhile, at Wal-Mart, Target and Flagtastic, flags aren't expected in stock for a week or longer, store officials said.

Custom Flags & Poles on Aurora Street in Lancaster left a message on its telephone line: "Out of U.S. flags (and) no date when they're going to ship . . . hopefully next week."

Paradis said flag sales were brisk during the Persian Gulf War, but sales slumped quickly because the war "was over so quickly."

"Obviously some patriotism was stirred up then, but it wasn't an American issue like this is. In a way, it's unfortunate that it takes something like this to get people flying their flag, but it's still a good thing for people to go out there and show they are proud of their country," Paradis said.

e-mail: tpignataro@buffnews.com

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