Biden candles, beer, and ‘hardcore’ T-shirts are part of inaugural spirit in Delaware

Listen 2:20
Spaceboy Clothing offers and assortment of eclectic Biden-based shirts including a yellow shirt highlighting his

Spaceboy Clothing offers and assortment of eclectic Biden-based shirts including a yellow shirt highlighting his "will you shut up, man" quote from the first presidential debate. (courtesy David Sanchez)

While the Presidential Inauguration Committee is selling commemorative tickets and other traditional souvenir items related to Joe Biden’s inauguration, lots more creative keepsakes are available in downtown Wilmington.

Since his election, Biden has been a frequent guest at the historic Queen Theatre on Market Street, in the heart of the downtown business district. Perhaps he’s seen the Biden-scented candles that are prominently displayed in the window of the Delaware History Museum’s store right next door to the Queen.

The museum has been selling the candles for a few years, but interest steadily grew during the campaign.

The candles are the brainchild of Kate and J.D. Dobson, who run an internet candle shop out of their home in Missouri.

Kate Dobson poses for a picture in front of a table of candles she makes along with her husband in their Missouri home. (courtesy JD and Kate Industries)

“We were brainstorming ideas, and J.D., I think, threw out the Joe Biden idea, and I just started squealing with excitement and then insisted that we absolutely needed to make a Joe Biden candle,” Kate said.

“We thought the idea of a Joe Biden-scented candle was inherently funny,” J.D. said.

Because Biden is often pictured snacking on his favorite treat, ice cream, many often expect the candle to carry an ice cream-related scent, but that’s not the case.

“With the case of Joe Biden, I think the scent of ice cream is too sugary and sweet for him,” Kate said.

So instead of vanilla ice cream, Biden’s candle smells like his favorite drink: orange Gatorade. “I just thought that orange scent is so friendly and down to earth, and I just thought it fit it more. I want to find a scent that when I smell it, it reminds me of a person, their personality.”

The Biden-scented candle smells like his favorite drink, orange Gatorade. (courtesy JD and Kate Industries)

Sales of the Biden candle have soared since the election after the couple made a deal to sell the candles online in partnership with the Delaware History Museum. With the museum’s store closed, the Dobsons created a special coupon code (DEHISTORY) that would give customers a 15% discount and send 10% of the proceeds back to the museum.

“I said absolutely, thinking that wouldn’t be that many candles, and surely we’d be able to handle any influx of sale,” Kate said. Biden candle sales increased 3,000% in the last two months of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. Lots of those purchases were made by Delawareans.

“I’m wrong to ever underestimate how much people in Delaware love Joe Biden,” Kate said.

The couple also produces a Kamala Harris candle that carries the aroma of lotus blossom, in honor of the name “Kamala,” which means lotus in Sanskrit.

“It’s this really soothing, spa-like scent, and I find her to have a very calming presence,” Kate said.

They started producing the Harris candle during the primary, well before she was selected as Biden’s running mate.

“I think she always seems unrattled when she is in these committee hearings and she’s questioning someone. She always seems on top of it and unshakable.”

‘He’s hardcore at what he does’

Candles aren’t the only Biden merchandise for sale in downtown Wilmington. Just a block away from his base at the Queen, custom T-shirt shop Spaceboy Clothing has been selling unique Biden-themed pieces for years.

Spaceboy co-owner and designer David Sanchez said the Biden designs fit in with the store’s goal to offer an eclectic selection of shirts.

A bright yellow tee featuring Biden’s “Will you shut up, man” rebuke of President Donald Trump at their first debate last year is now prominently displayed in Spaceboy’s front window.

Spaceboy designer David Sanchez says he tries to make his Biden designs “a little more edgy.” (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

“It shows that he’s human, you know, that he’s not up there just putting on this fake persona trying to make people like him,” Sanchez said. “You know, he was actually feeling an emotion at the time, and he said what he felt. So I kind of liked it, so that’s where that T-shirt idea came from.”

On the other side of the display is a skull-and-crossbones design with Biden’s face replacing the skull. It’s part of Sanchez’s hardcore spin on the new president.

“He’s hardcore at what he does,” Sanchez said. “As a former hardcore kid, I wanted to do something just a little bit different. Not that typical cheesy political candidate T-shirt. I wanted something a little more edgy.”

Spaceboy designer David Sanchez says he tries to make his Biden designs “a little more edgy.” (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

There’s been an increase in customers stopping by the store to check out the Biden items, a welcome change of pace during the pandemic, which has drastically reduced foot traffic in downtown Wilmington. One recent customer, a Biden staffer, walked away with several Biden shirts and a promise.

“I asked her to personally deliver a couple of my designs to him, and she said that she promised that she would give them to him, but she could not promise that he would wear them, which is understandable,” Sanchez said. “I still thought that was cool either way.”

‘Something we can all agree on’

Whether Biden will wear Sanchez’s hardcore design in private is unknown, but it’s almost certain he won’t partake in Wilmington Brew Works’ new beer, Rail Car One. The beverage is a nod to Biden’s fondness for riding Amtrak between Wilmington and Washington.

“I had joked around with my partners, wondering if there was an official designation for a presidential train car, like there is for an airplane,” said John Fusco, Wilmington Brew Works VP of creative and brand marketing. “It’s just fun to think of the president traveling back to Delaware on a special train car just for him.”

The can features a stylized Amtrak Acela train car emblazoned in the traditional blue and white paint scheme seen on Air Force One.

Wilmington Brew Works Biden-based beer Rail Force One sold out in less than a month. (courtesy WBW)

While Biden’s affinity for ice cream is legendary, he doesn’t drink alcohol. A tagline on the label is a nod to that fact: “While #46 may not engage in the occasional tipple, his fine friends in the first state certainly do. And that’s something we can all agree on.”

Rail Car One, featuring a mix of Mosaic, Citra and Sultana hops, was released to the public on Delaware Day, Dec. 7. Its popularity last month is bad news for anyone who was waiting to purchase their beer until the inauguration. A notice on the company’s website says Rail Car One is all sold out as of Jan. 1. Shirts, posters and stickers featuring the label design are still available.

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal