Man who sculpted iconic flamingo passes away; shop in Holladay honors his legacy

Posted at 10:04 PM, Jun 24, 2015
and last updated 2015-06-25 00:04:39-04

HOLLADAY, Utah -- Not far from Flamingo Drive in Holladay is a home known for that very bird and its owner, Missy Combs.

“They’re great. I just love these guys,” Coombs said.

On her lawn, you’ll find almost a dozen pink, plastic flamingos. Some are a salmon tone, others a lighter pink, but all were inspired by a design created decades ago in Massachusetts.

“It’s very Don Featherstone-ish,” Coombs said. “In a very simple, plastic manner it makes a big difference in a lot people.”

Don Featherstone died Monday at the age of 79. According to the Associated Press, Featherstone had been battling dementia.

A sculptor, he began working for the Union Products Plastics back in the 1950s. It was during that time, in 1957, that Featherstone created a work that no one anticipated to be quite so successful: It was a molding of a pink flamingo.

That very flamingo quickly became a staple lawn decoration across the U.S.--a symbol for warmth and sunshine.

“More power to him,” said Coombs. “All it takes is one flamingo to take something that is just totally boring and just make somebody smile.”

Coombs, however, has more than just one flamingo. She has an entire store named after it. In 2011, she opened The Old Flamingo in Millcreek. It was initially intended to just be a store with vintage, refurbished furniture. But on opening night, she decorated her front lawn with 50 pink, plastic flamingos. Customers loved them so much she started carrying them in the shop. Then, she started collecting them herself.

Now, Coombs special orders flamingos out of Chicago, where an artist follows a style similar to Featherstone’s.

“This is a very close second to the Don Featherstone,” she explained. “I’ve sold thousands. I’ve sold thousands of birds.”

Inside her store, she also carries flamingo clothes, books, and even walking sticks. Staff members call themselves the “flock.”

“I love the flamingos. It’s just quirky. It’s fun,” employee Emilee Shelley said.

While Featherstone may have passed away, Coombs believes his design will live on for the simplistic happiness it brings her and others all around the country.

“He lives on forever with a smile,” she said.