Trump is great for business, souvenir shops say
VENDORS flogged everything from Trump whoopee cushions to bobble-head dolls, pamphlets decried sharia law and proselytisers preached of Jesus: Welcome to the world outside the gates of last week’s Republican convention.
A man dancing in his underpants, a musician strumming Trump tunes and women offering free hugs – a bustling street outside the sports arena hosting the jamboree in Cleveland was packed with souvenir stalls and outdoor cafes during the four-day convention.
Local businesses riffed on Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again”, adapting it into advertising gimmicks such as “Make Brunch Great Again” and “Make Feet Great Again”, by a company selling Trump socks.
And while some touts complained of slack trade and confided that Hillary Clinton products sell better elsewhere, by day three of the Republican Convention some were happily proclaiming Trump gold.
From home-baked cookies frosted with images of the Republican presidential nominee to bobble-head dolls and conservative parodies portraying Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominess, as the wicked witch in The Wizard of Oz, sellers were having a field day.
Tyasia Savage, 22, who flew home from Los Angeles to sell her grandmother’s custom-baked Trump cookies, said they were selling like “hotcakes” but the Clinton version, not so much.
“We stopped making them,” she explained. “They say Republicans aren’t the nicest? They’ve been the nicest to me actually!”
“I love that it’s good for business,” she said of the Republican Convention coming to her home town. “Cleveland looks so pretty, they dressed it up really nice.”
Down the street from a doomsayer handing out pamphlets portraying sharia law as a threat, Brigid Hopkins, 42, who called herself an “epiphany midwife”, or life coach, said her offers of free hugs scored big as a treat.
“It releases oxytocin and lets them feel just great!” she said, adding that a visiting senator had been among those she had welcomed.
“The vibe that I get is that it’s intense, being inside the discussions and that we’re a breath of fresh air,” she laughed.
Mark Vannuki, whose Trump bobble-head dolls have been flying off the shelves since January, said he was doing a roaring trade at six or seven locations dotted around Cleveland.
“It’s been a big seller,” he said. Vannuki is bringing out a Clinton doll this week for the Democratic convention in Philadelphia but it is projected to sell less well.
“I think people are in the mood for a change and they think that he can run the country like a business,” he explained.
A year ago, he admitted, he never would have imagined being at a Republican convention nominating Trump for president. Now he says he will vote for the New York billionaire in November.
“We thought it was a joke at first. When it became [clear] it could be a partial reality, that’s when we geared up to make the product,” he said, worried that he would run out of the US$20 doll.
Despite some misgivings that the party is not united, and the small protests and angry discussions on the street, some vendors said trade had been better than expected.
Chris Hume says proceeds from his Trump whoopee cushion, which he designed himself, were going to progressive Democrats running against vulnerable Republicans in the 2016 Senate elections.
“I’m just trying to make laughter a little more prevalent here because there’s a lot of tension in the country and the world right now,” said the 50-yearold from Los Angeles.
“People just love it. Even the cops are laughing, even the Republicans – a lot of them find it funny.” –