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Plastic flamingos become an endangered species



Published: Tue, August 17, 2004 @ 12:00 a.m.



It's the second time this summer the yard decorations have been stolen.

By CYNTHIA VINARSKY

VINDICATOR BUSINESS WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Howard Mounts likes to work in the dark.

The owner of Yard Greetings, a home-based business on Youngstown's South Side, he sets up yard displays for birthdays, graduations and other events at night so the recipients get the maximum surprise the following morning.

But Mounts is lamenting the weekend theft of 40 pink plastic flamingos, a loss that may force him to work by day.

Mounts said the theft will hurt his business in two ways -- he'll have to spend about $250 to replace the stolen birds, and he'll probably lose several jobs while he's awaiting delivery.

Pink flamingos are his most popular yard decoration, he said, usually ordered as a joke for adults celebrating significant birthdays.

The 40 missing flamingos were stolen from a 75th birthday display he'd set up for a homeowner near the corner of Schenley Avenue and Bears Den Court on the city's West Side. Mounts set up the flock late Friday and discovered more than half the birds gone early Saturday.

"I've had one or two taken before, but never this many. This was a major theft for me," he said.

"You don't just drive up and load up 40 flamingos in your car trunk. Whoever did this had to have a van or a truck."

Another theft

Mounts' loss is the second large flamingo theft in the area this summer.

The Struthers Parent Teacher Association reported 30 flamingos it uses for a fund-raiser were stolen from a yard in June. The PTA's birds were recovered and a man was charged with receiving stolen property in connection with the theft.

Mounts has reported this weekend's theft to Youngstown police, hoping they'll be able to recover his missing birds and to catch the person or persons responsible.

He's discussed the theft with people who own a large yard display business with operations in Chicago and Cleveland.

They said flamingos have been popular theft targets in those cities, as well, and advised him to start putting the birds on display in the early morning and taking them out before dark.

About the business

Yard Greetings started out as a part-time business for Mounts about three years ago while he was working as a pressman and paper cutter for American Paper Products in Boardman.

Mounts originally planned to cater his yard signs to children's birthdays and other child-oriented celebrations. "It didn't work out that way," he said. "Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of my business is adult-oriented, and we go from ages 1 to 90."

When American Paper filed for bankruptcy in 2002 and sold out to a new owner, Mounts, a 34-year employee, was one of those left jobless. He decided to try making his yard sign company a full-time enterprise.

Now the business serves Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties in Ohio and Mercer and Lawrence counties in Pennsylvania. After flamingos, his second most popular yard decoration is a flock of buzzards, also used for a birthday gag.

"We had a full yard display of buzzards on Western Reserve Road this weekend, but nobody's ever taken one of those," he said.

vinarsky@vindy.com




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