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McCall not ready to raise white flag

Edna McCall threaded a couple of pieces of trivia within the 28-page pamphlet she wrote last year as a nod to Crystal Lake’s history.

“In 1963,” she wrote after her introduction, “there was one Walmart in existence.”

McCall comes back to the now-supersized retailer at the end of her short book to tie together the 49 years she details.

“There is room for Walmart,” she wrote. “But it will never take the place of small-town uniqueness.”

Her point about the important contrast downtown Crystal Lake provides in a world of big-box stores is part of why McCall is still putting in so many hours.

The longtime owner of The Flag Store knows as much as anyone about the retail district she exists in five days a week. Her husband, Doug, started a print shop in 1975. The couple sold the business in the 1980s, but found themselves back in a smaller print shop downtown not long after.

The McCalls had some unused space at the front of that shop, and soon, Edna figured she might as well make use of it.

“We had been involved with a lot of international exchanges, and I just thought it should be easier to find flags,” she said. “So we started The Flag Store on a whim, and 23 years later it’s still going.”

As a traveler who respected flags, the business seemed natural to Edna. She started adding “unusual things” she felt people couldn’t find anywhere else.

Doug McCall died in 2002, but Edna now gets help from her son, John. He added sports memorabilia to the store’s offerings when he got involved.

Today, Edna McCall said, the store is the only one like it in the area.

And it’s part of a downtown Crystal Lake area that McCall has seen change plenty through the years.

McCall and her husband – former newspaper people who at one time worked for the Cleveland Plain Dealer – moved to the area in 1963. But she said the downtown Crystal Lake area is today as vibrant as she has ever seen it.

She said efforts through the Main Street program to revamp the district after the recession have paid off.

“It started coming back,” she said. “But it was a real transition.”

As for the future, McCall has no immediate plans to step away from the store she’s now spent almost a quarter century at – on a whim.

“If my husband were still here, we probably would not be,” she said. “But it’s certainly something for me to get up in the morning for.”

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