Major U.S. retailers say they’re done selling the Confederate flag—but Dewey Barber is just getting started.
Barber, 67, owner of a Georgia-based company that peddles “Southern heritage” T-shirts and other items online, watched closely this week as debate over the Confederate flag ignited, fueled by outrage over a massacre in a historically black church in Charleston, S.C. Under pressure, retail giants including Walmart, Amazon and eBay announced that they would pull Confederate flags and similar themed products from their websites.
Barber, though, decided to do the exact opposite—he plans to begin manufacturing the Confederate flag and add it to the lineup on his Dixie Outfitters website, now that the “big boys” are out of the business.
“Most of them are only [selling Confederate flag merchandise] for monetary gain—they don’t understand the nuances of the flag in the way that those of us who were born and bred [in the South] do,” Barber told TIME from the company’s Odum, Ga. headquarters. “We’re glad to see ignorant people getting out of the business. Let those of us who understand it [sell] it.”
Dixie Outfitters—which Barber founded in 1997 as a subsidiary of his Barber & Company, with the slogan “Preserving Southern Heritage since 1861″—will manufacture its own Confederate flags and begin selling them in two to three weeks, Barber said.
The flags will join an array of create-your-own Confederate gear already available at Dixie Outfitters: the company lets customers choose a design (for example, a picture of the Confederate flag with text that says, “If this flag offends you…you need a history lesson”) and then apply that design to everything from a sticker to a T-shirt for a dog. A “You can’t take my dog, my gun, or my flag” large men’s hooded sweatshirt costs $28.59, while a 16-in. “Dixie girls: sweet as sugar” sticker goes for $14.24.
Barber believes the Confederate flag represents anything but hate. “It’s reprehensible for special interest groups and the left to exploit a tragedy like the [South Carolina shooting] like this to further their own agendas,” Barber told TIME.
“[The Confederate flag] is a soldier’s flag, flown in battle by those fighting to protect their families from the Northern invasion. We reject the idea that it has racist connotations,” Barber continued. “It’s an honorable flag.”
Over the past few days, Barber estimated that Dixie Outfitters has already seen approximately a 500% surge in orders on existing merchandise, much of it featuring the Confederate flag in its design.
Dixie Outfitters even made a small addition to the website: a decal that reads, “These colors don’t run. Never have, never will,” and links to recent news about the Confederate flag debate.