Sunday, April 18, 2004

Yellow ribbons, flags fly off shelves in support of soldier

By Karen Andrew
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A photo of Pfc. Matt Maupin and yellow ribbons decorate the gate to Glen Este High School in Clermont County. People all over the area have begun showing support for the soldier, who was taken hostage while in Iraq.
The Cincinnati Enquirer/TONY JONES
Three-inch-wide outdoor yellow ribbon is long gone at some Clermont County stores.

Finding yellow ribbon in stores in Clermont County is nearly impossible and locating American flags is getting more difficult, shopkeepers said Saturday.

Hundreds of yellow ribbons and bows are tied on trees, fences, and parking meters. They hang on the doors and in the windows at businesses and homes throughout Clermont County in a show of support for the safe return of Army Pfc. Matt Maupin, 20, of Union Township. Maupin, a member of the 724th Transportation Company, was taken hostage by Iraq insurgents and shown surrounded by armed and masked men on Al-Jazeera TV Friday. Maupin had been missing since April 9.

Sandi Lawson, a manager at Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts, in Eastgate Station, said many people have been coming in looking for yellow ribbon, often people who have never been in the store before.

But the store, like many others, sold out of wider-width yellow ribbon.

She said the store had a supply of the three-inch outdoor ribbon because of Sept. 11 but it's gone.

"They've been coming in all week," said Lawson. "We've sold out all that ribbon so now they're just trying to make lapel ribbons. They're also buying American flags and the American flag lapel pins."

Tim Cross, manager of the Michael's Arts and Crafts store in Eastgate, said he noticed business pick up early this week, after it was announced that Maupin was one of two missing soldiers in Iraqi.

"Because Michael's supported the patriotic efforts for 9-ll, I had a carryover of not only yellow but red, white and blue ribbons."

His store, too, sold out of the yellow ribbons. But, an order for more has been made.

Customers are turning to alternatives, though.

Cross said people are buying yellow balloons in lieu of ribbon.

"I talked to a lady today who had an idea to use yellow plastic table covers and cut them into strips," said Eastgate's Hobby Lobby Creative Centers' store manager, Ed Horton. "People are even buying the regular ribbon," the satin type used for crafts. Horton said very few stores carry the outdoor plastic ribbon because it is difficult to get.

"Last year I know we had actual plastic ribbon on a spool but people bought it up when the troops were shipped overseas," he said. He added that craft stores nationwide are getting low on the supply.

Dozens of yellow balloons, attached to cars, danced in the air Saturday at the nearby Jeff Wyler auto dealership on State Route 32.

A few Clermont County stores also reported increases in sales of American flags.

The Wal-Mart in Eastgate Square had sold out by Friday, said assistant manager Brian Keith.

"Some kind of veterans' groups came in and bought everything we had, from flags to yellow ribbon," Keith said.

It could take a few days before Wal-Mart will gets a new shipment of flags.

Dick's Clothing & Sporting Goods, 650 Eastgate South Drive, sold four to six flags Saturday, said apparel manager David Reusser. "But I don't know if that's directly related to what's going on (in Iraq)," he said.

Matt Leingang contributed to this report.


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