Martin’s Flag has a new owner

A prominent feature of the Fort Dodge commercial world since 1895, Martin’s Flag Co., 1210 First Ave. N., has a new owner.

Brett Biggins is now the sole owner. He said he plans to build on the company’s nearly 12 decades of business success.

Biggins paid high tribute to brothers Kirk and Scott Van Gundy, the most recent previous owners.

“Scott and Kirk did a great job. Their father did a great job. They laid that foundation for the history of the company,” he said. “I don’t want that heritage to be lost. I want to keep the heritage going. … Martin’s has a very strong reputation not just in Fort Dodge and in Iowa but outside the state because it has been around so long.”

The Van Gundys are no longer involved in the day-to-day operation of the company, but Biggins said they will provide his team with ongoing advice as needed.

“They are acting as consultants,” he said. “If we have questions, we still call them. They are still available.”

The range of products handled by Martin’s Flag Co. is extensive. Flags, of course, are the central focus. Assorted United States flags in a multitude of sizes and in fabrics and configurations to suit every imaginable need are at the heart of the enterprise. But that’s just the beginning of the story. There are U.S. historical flags, state flags, international flags, military flags, religious/church flags, special event/purpose flags, and sports and college flags and banners. Should the extensive selection in the company’s catalog not meet a customer’s requirements, Martin’s Flag Co. can arrange for the creation of just about any custom flag or banner that might be desired.

In addition to flags, Martin’s sells flagpoles and holders, an array of flag accessories and grave markers.

Biggins said the company markets and ships products. It does not manufacture them.

“Our core business is in Iowa and the Midwest,” he said. “We do business in all 50 states.”

Some customers make their purchases at Martin’s headquarters on the corner of First Avenue North and North 12th Street, but most of the transactions are by the telephone or online.

Biggins said the sales are now about 25 percent online and 75 percent telephone orders. He said strengthening the Internet component is a priority.

“In this day and age it is important to get online … and develop more of a marketing base,” he said. “We just signed a contract with a company to overhaul that whole thing.”

Martin’s Flag Co. has a longtime commitment to sell American-made products. Biggins said he is determined to keep that emphasis strong.

“Everything we have for flags is still made in the USA,” he said. “We think it is very important to have a made-in-the-USA label on all of our flags. We do so because it is patriotic and we want to continue that. … I think we can be competitive with American-made products.”

Meet the new owner

Biggins was born and raised in Fort Dodge. He graduated from St. Edmond High School in 1997 and the University of Northern Iowa in 2002. His bachelor’s degree is in marketing. After college, Biggins worked for Maytag Appliances as a district representative, initially in Little Rock, Ark. He was promoted and moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. Biggins then took a job with Polaris in Des Moines and was with that company for about eight years.

Biggins married Laura Vandagriff, a 1999 graduate of Fort Dodge Senior High, in 2009. They have a daughter, Kendall, who was born in December 2013.

The acquisition of Martin’s Flag Co. is in sync with Biggins’ long-term career goals.

“I’ve wanted to own a business for a while,” he said. “It had to be the right opportunity. … All the ingredients had to be there. I wouldn’t have stepped into this if I didn’t think it was something I would be committed to in the long-term, could build off of given the success they’ve had already.”

While he’s new to the Martin’s world, Biggins said he is already enthusiastic about his new venture.

“I come from a retail commercial background, dealing with independent retailers, that kind of thing,” he said. “So, it was a natural fit for me, dealing with people on a day-to-day basis. In retail, if you don’t like dealing with people, you are probably in the wrong business.”

Biggins said he is especially pleased that Kristy Hilbert, who was part of the Van Gundy team, has remained with the company as the office manager. He said she has been a tremendous resource during the ownership transition.

Biggins said he likes being back in Fort Dodge and is bullish about this town’s economic future.

“You can see Fifth Avenue South, how that is growing,” he said. “You can see the broad picture of what’s going to happen downtown. The big picture of where Fort Dodge is going is very positive. It’s part of the reason why you want to do business here.”