CLEVELAND — People have said it for months — it’s an election year to remember.
But what happens after nominee Donald Trump has given his speech to the delegates in attendance and the nation on television, the balloons have dropped and everyone heads home? How will those who witnessed the political spectacle that was a national convention preserve their memories of an eventful week?
That’s right, souvenirs.
And there was certainly no shortage of items delegates and other guests have been buying to serve as tokens of their time in Cleveland. Donald Trump and Republican National Convention memorabilia has filled the mini-stores within Quicken Loans Arena and the sidewalks downtown.
You name it, it has been for sale: Trump “Make America Great Again” hats; T-shirts of every color; Trump fans; hundreds of varieties of political buttons; coffee mugs; convention and Trump posters; red, white and blue sunglasses; little Trump flags and big Trump flags; Frisbees, and even two kinds of Trump bobblehead dolls.
Benjamin Rank, a Baltimore native and director of convention sales, said certain items inside “The Q,” where the convention was held, were very popular among convention-goers.
Coffee mugs with the slogan “Make Coffee Great Again” have flown off the shelves, said Rank, a University of Maryland alumnus.
“It’s absolutely the best. It’s a very fun item. People see that, they buy 10 of them at a time to give out as gifts,” Rank said.
The official convention store, which can also be found online at shop.trump2016.com, has T-shirts priced at $25, bumper stickers for $5, Polos for $65, as well as limited edition pins and coins at varying prices. Also popular are Vineyard Vines ties sporting a stylized version of the GOP elephant symbol, and tote bags.
Rank said sales have been “tremendous” at the six stores inside the arena and the one right outside in the marketplace.
“There is a ton of excitement behind this convention in particular, and we’ve been seeing that type of response and we just hope it continues that way,” Rank said.
He added that all items with the convention logo — a red elephant and blue guitar (the latter for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) — were selling fast because people wanted to remember their part in the historic moment.
Despite the success of the convention’s stores, members of the Maryland delegation said they have not bought many souvenirs because the Maryland Republican Party gave them “several bags of mementos,” said Louis Pope, national committeeman for the Maryland Republican Party.
Pope said he received glasses, cups, pens, books and six to seven new T-shirts when he arrived in Cleveland.
Joe Sliwka, delegate for Maryland’s 1st Congressional District, said he did not “look for anything extra” because he was given many items for free. Sliwka also said he did not have a lot of time to shop because of the busy schedules and lengthy delays for security screening when entering the arena.
In keeping with one of the convention’s themes, “Make America Work Again,” The GOP convention stores partnered with local suppliers to produce their merchandise.
The non-candidate clothing, as Rank described it, was all supplied by a Cleveland company, Stuart & Associates.
“We’re very proud of the fact, you know, being here in Cleveland, we’re able to give back to the community and be able to use a local company to provide all of these great products for all of the attendees from all over the nation,” Rank said. “So not only are we showcasing this wonderful city, but we are showcasing Cleveland business as well.”
However, putting these items on the shelves and into the hands of delegates, guests and other Trump supporters was not an easy feat for either the official clothing store inside the convention hall or the third-party vendors outside.
“There are many challenges that come from this role, from managing the supply chain to dealing with all of the security issues on a high-level event such as this one, and also just dealing with the scope and the size for such an event and planning for it in a short period of time,” Rank said.
Outside the arena, merchandise available from individual vendors was not necessarily officially licensed by Trump, but varied from the fun, to the wacky, to the downright vulgar.
Delegates taking a quick stroll down West Superior Street in downtown Cleveland, just blocks from the convention and outside the security perimeter, found it all — pins and T-shirts with the “Hillary For Prison” slogan, rhinestone-studded “USA” baseball caps, and sunglasses with the “Trump 2016” logo. At various sales tables, Trump bobbleheads were going for $20.
Indiana native Brian Timmons, one of the vendors set up on the street, said sales at his location were subpar.
“We travel with Donald Trump with every show he goes to and we’ve done the worst in Cleveland than anywhere else to be honest,” said Timmons, who called himself one of the traveling store’s “road warriors.”
“It’s basically just with the availability for setting up is the main reason,” he explained. “With this kind of stuff, it’s all about where you’re located because of traffic.”
Timmons also said the large number of other vendors in the area were diluting his sales: “I haven’t done too bad, not as good as my best day, but not my worst day.”