A year after the business community urged Gov. Nikki Haley to remove the Confederate battle flag from Statehouse grounds, there is no way to know if the change resulted in economic growth for the state, recruiting officials said.
The S.C. Department of Commerce does not keep a list or have any evidence of businesses opening in South Carolina — or choosing not to — as a result of the flag coming down, agency spokeswoman Adrienne Fairwell said.
Anita Zucker, chairwoman of the Charleston Regional Development Alliance, also said she was unaware of any new business opening in the Lowcountry due to the flag’s removal.
“Obviously, people that I speak to are glad that it was removed,” she said. “But I’ve never had anyone specifically say removing this makes the state more welcoming (to businesses).”
Meanwhile, at some tourist shops and flag stores around the state, images of the flag are becoming scarcer. At Treasure Island Beachwear on the road to Folly Beach, visitors can’t find license plates with the image of a bald eagle superimposed over a Confederate flag anymore. Neither is the flag on boogie boards, beach towels or shot glasses.
“We don’t carry as much as we used to, and when it’s gone, it’s gone,” said a manager who declined to give her name. She said she took a lot of Confederate-themed items off the shelves on the day after the mass shooting at Emanuel AME Church.
But as some sellers distanced themselves from Confederate flags and kitsch, others doubled down. Dixie Outfitters, a Summerville store, still offers flag-emblazoned T-shirts with slogans like “Yankee Go Home,” “It Ain’t Over” and “Confederate Lives Matter.” The company website proclaims, “YES, We Have ALL KINDS of Confederate Flags In Stock & Ready for Delivery!” Reached by phone, a store employee said managers do not give interviews to the press.
At Carolina Flag and Banner in West Ashley, owner Jason Brooke made the decision shortly after the shooting to stop selling some Confederate flags, but not all of them. Today, he still sells the “Stars and Bars,” the first national flag of the Confederacy; the South Carolina Sovereignty flag, which symbolized the state’s secession; and “Big Red,” the red palmetto flag that may have been carried by Citadel cadets who fired on the Union supply ship Star of the West in 1861.
What you can’t find in Brooke’s shop any longer are the widely known battle flag, Naval jack or similarly designed national Confederate flags, which feature a blue X with white stars over a red field. He said one important distinction, for him, was that the battle flag was adopted by white supremacist groups as a symbol of racial hatred.
“By carrying the Confederate battle flag, I felt that, in an offhanded way, I was making a statement,” Brooke said.
Reach Paul Bowers at (843) 937-5546 or twitter.com/paul_bowers. Reach Maya T. Prabhu at (843) 509-8933