Tucson Map and Flag going out of business

Tucson Map and Flag closing down a victim of the digital age

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Tucson Map and Flag has been a staple in Tucson for 54 years, located at 3239 N. First Ave.

It is closing its doors on May 31, 2019, a victim of the digital age.

“The market keeps shrinking,” said 68-year-old owner Charles Smith. “You just don’t have the market for it.”

Paper maps have, for the most part, been replaced by maps on the web. There’s still a market for paper, but not enough.

"I've been told it's definitely age related," Smith saide. "If you're 45 or older you want a physical map in front of you but if you're under 45, the phone or a computer works for you."

However, Smith is getting out of the business for anther reason.

"I'm the middle of the baby boomers and baby boomers are retiring," he said. "They're saying, I don't want to work anymore."

So many map makers and producers are 70+ and are leaving the business. That in turn has limited his suppliers as well.

It's not a business which attracts newcomers.

He's tried to sell the business but "there's nobody interested in it, there's nobody to buy it."

He is beginning an online concierge business to keep him busy and likely, to make the transition to retirement a bit easier.

"I won't have a physical store," he said. "My wife tells me every once in a while, you have a brick and mortar store but it's between your ears."

Smith graduated from Ball State University in Indiana in 1973 but moved to Arizona to get a Master's degree in geography.

Instead, he received a sign, literally.

"As I was driving along, I saw this sign that was part of a beacon saying Tucson's Map and Flag Center," he said. "I said that would be a good place for somebody that's studying geography."

One thing led to another and soon he became the owner in 1989.

What he will miss most he says, is the interaction he has with his customers.

“You know you’re a success in business not by the size of your bank account,” he said. “But by how people remember you.”

Since he announced his closing three weeks ago, he says he has shaken more hands than he did in 30 years as long time customers have come in to say goodbye and browse the store.

He has sold 85 percent of his inventory, the rest he will sell on eBay, likely to many people looking for a bit of nostalgia.

“It’s one of those things,” he said. “People are saying why should I spend money for a map which is going to get damaged when I can have it on my phone.”

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