- Associated Press - Thursday, August 7, 2014

GLEN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - An eccentric interest in vexillology, or the study of flags, led young Empire native Daniel Sterling to raise a new business.

He designed a Glen Arbor flag with a seal with an iconic local scene of Inspiration Point, Glen Lake and the Manitou islands displayed against a blue background.

“We look at a flag as a living entity. Even wars have been started over misrepresenting a flag,” Sterling, 23, told the Traverse City Record-Eagle ( https://bit.ly/1tXba9o ). “At the end of the day it’s a piece of fabric. It’s interesting how a piece of fabric can carry so much meaning and so much importance in history.”

Sterling worked on the design while attending the University of Michigan last year and had the flags manufactured in late spring. He sells the 3-by-5-foot flags in stores around town such as The Totem Shop, Visions by the Bay and Northwoods Filling Station.

Sterling wanted to design the flag so he would have an image to remind him of home. He studied other flags, such as that of Denver, Colo., and reached out to friends for inspiration.

“You’re trying to keep it simple, but use an image everyone can identify with,” Sterling said. “Flags are part of our thinking. They’re part of our culture. They’re symbols.”

And they’re flying off the shelves. Sterling sold nearly 100 in the first month of business at $30 each.

The flag business isn’t always breezy. Sterling had to learn Chinese business customs and use Mandarin to communicate with his overseas manufacturer.

The experience came in handy, as he plans to teach English and Western culture at the University of Science and Technology Beijing this year and eventually start a career in international business development.

Sterling’s flag isn’t the only one that flies over Glen Arbor. The township had a competition to select the official local flag last year. The board received one submission, which they selected as the official Glen Arbor flag.

That design flies outside the township office, but there’s no flag friction in the small, lakeside town.

“From our perspective we have one official township flag, and people can design T-shirts, flags, anything they want as a business,” Glen Arbor Supervisor John Soderholm said.

Sterling chose not to submit a design to the contest because the township wanted ownership of the image.

“I ultimately wanted to have a little more control over who had it, so I decided just to go on my own,” Sterling said.


Information from: Traverse City Record-Eagle, https://www.record-eagle.com

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