Kerrin Lou Krouse (Kerry) McCoy (1954–)
Kerry McCoy is an Arkansas entrepreneur who founded Arkansas Flag and Banner, Inc. (now FlagandBanner.com) in Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1975. McCoy is publisher of Brave Magazine and host of the radio show Up in Your Business, and she also drew wide acclaim for overseeing the restoration of the historic Dreamland Ballroom.
Kerrin Lou Krouse was born on September 27, 1954, in Little Rock to Edwin Ormond Krouse and Sara Lee Rhea Krouse. Her parents met during World War II while her father was serving in the military and had married in Walla Walla, Washington. After the war, the couple moved to Little Rock and had three children. There, Ed Krouse dabbled in many small businesses.
The family moved from Little Rock to North Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1959. After graduating from North Little Rock Northeast High School, she moved to Dallas, Texas, to attend Miss Wade’s Fashion Merchandising College (now Wade College), a one-year vocational school. She graduated during the 1974 recession and was unable to find a job in her field. Through an employment agency placement, she found a job at Betsy Ross Flag Girl Inc. and began selling flags for the company. Upon a return visit to Little Rock, she found that the state had no flag companies and that the secretary of state’s office purchased its flags from out of state. In 1975, after returning to Little Rock, she used her $400 life savings to open Arkansas Flag and Banner. She purchased a business permit, business cards, and order forms. Early days were spent distributing her cards to central Arkansas businesses and selling flags door to door. During the business’s first nine years, she supplemented her income with part-time jobs.
In 1979, she married Ronald Winfield Thompson, and they had a daughter. Wanting to stay home to care for her child prompted her to change the business model from outside sales to a mail order and catalog sales strategy. The couple divorced in 1982.
In the early 1980s, with the deregulation of the monopoly Southwestern Bell Telephone Company, she took advantage of the lower long-distance rates and began telemarketing. She bought telephone book advertisements in the seven states surrounding Arkansas and spent her days on the phone. During this time, Arkansas Flag and Banner prospered enough to become her sole support.
As the business grew, additional employees were hired, and office space was needed. She asked her mother for one year rent-free in a vacated rental property in exchange for minor repairs and paint. Her mother agreed. Arkansas Flag and Banner moved in 1984 into that rental property at 1619 Main Street in North Little Rock, with the office space needed for growth.
Throughout the 1980s, flag sales increased across America. The vendor she used for flag production increased its time for custom-made flags, revealing a manufacturing niche in the market. She bought a used industrial sewing machine and hired a seamstress. Arkansas Flag and Banner’s customer base grew.
In 1987, she married Grady Lee McCoy III. They had three sons.
Arkansas Flag and Banner experienced its first patriotic fervor in 1990, when President George H. W. Bush announced military action against Iraq. To meet the rising demand, McCoy expanded the manufacturing side of the business to include screen printing. With the need for more office space and the influx of money from Gulf War patriotic fervor, she began the process of purchasing Taborian Hall on West 9th Street. In 1995, McCoy entered the emerging world of e-commerce.
The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks changed the flag business. The instant surge of patriotism prompted customers to overcome their fear of online shopping. Flags sold out across the country. In response to consumer demand, McCoy opened a retail store on the first floor of Taborian Hall, which also sold patriotic decorations, home and garden decor, clothing, jewelry, toys, and more.
As FlagandBanner.com grew, McCoy expanded the workspace by utilizing the 22,000-square-foot building, creating offices on the second floor and warehouse space behind the building. In 2009, she established the nonprofit organization Friends of Dreamland Ballroom in hopes of saving and protecting the space that had been the centerpiece of Taborian Hall, the last remaining original building on the 9th Street “Line,” which was once the center for African-American businesses and culture in Little Rock. By 2012, Dreamland Ballroom was renovated enough to host the “Dancing into Dreamland” fundraising competition, which had previously been held at the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion. McCoy was featured in the 2017 AETN documentary Dream Land. In 2018, the U.S. Department of the Interior and the National Park Service awarded a $499,668 improvement grant to Dreamland Ballroom to make it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In 2014, McCoy published the first edition of Brave Magazine. It was distributed to 6,000 Arkansas customers. The thirty-two page bi-annual free publication spotlights acts of heroism, flag news, personal-interest stories, and business advice. Its distribution grew to 50,000 by 2019. Her radio show, Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy, first aired on September 16, 2016, on KABF community radio in Little Rock.
For additional information:
Brandon, Phyllis D. “Kerry Krouse Thompson McCoy.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, High Profile, June 20, 2002, pp. 1D, 5D.
Dreamland: Little Rock’s West Ninth Street. AETN, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjBeT7AyjRE (accessed June 27, 2019).
Kazas, Tom. “Banner Years on a $400 Investment.” Arkansas Gazette, August 15, 1988, p. 1C.
“Kerry McCoy—President of Arkansas Flag and Banner.” Ideamensch. https://ideamensch.com/kerry-mccoy/ (accessed June 27, 2019).
“Woman Finds Place for Flag Business in Little Rock.” West Little Rock Neighbor, August 8, 1984.
Last Updated: 06/27/2019