Visiting Bucks County’s new ‘Trump Store’ on Presidents Day Weekend

The Trump Store in Bensalem saw large crowds of shoppers on Presidents Day Weekend. (Becca Haydu for WHYY)

The Trump Store in Bensalem saw large crowds of shoppers on Presidents Day Weekend. (Becca Haydu for WHYY)

Michael Domanico couldn’t put Trump merchandise out on the shelves fast enough.

Every free minute he got, Domanico spent ripping open plastic wrap filled with Trump 2020 pins and liberating “Make America Great Again” mugs from bubble wrap.

It was the first Saturday — fittingly, during Presidents Day Weekend — since Domanico opened The Trump Store in a strip mall on Street Road in Bensalem. Most of the morning and into the afternoon, the store was packed with people from Bucks County and beyond trying to get their hands on some one-of-a-kind Trump gear. Customers stood outside to pose for selfies with the store’s sign, which features Trump’s image against the backdrop of an American flag.

One gray T-shirt was emblazoned with a “Border Wall Construction Co.” logo, complete with the slogans “Build the Wall” and “Deport Them All.”

Many shoppers expressed support for the construction of a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, as this t-shirt for a “Border Wall Construction Co.” shows. (Becca Haydu for WHYY)

An American flag-themed inflatable pool toy depicted Trump with two thumbs up. A bright red baseball cap read, “Socialism Sucks.”

But beyond offering the chance to grab $20 hats and $5 pins, the new shop also served as a gathering space for Trump-supporting conservatives to flaunt their pride without any disruption from left-leaning Democrats.

For Andy Meehan — who is running in Pennsylvania’s April 28 Republican primary against U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick — it was a chance to reach conservative and GOP voters he says have been alienated by the incumbent congressman. Although Fitzpatrick voted against impeachment, he has often been an outspoken Republican voice against Trump and voted last summer to condemn as racist the president’s comments about four congresswomen.

Trump 2020 t-shirts for sale at the Trump Store in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. (Becca Haydu for WHYY)

Outside the store Saturday, Meehan and some campaign volunteers tried to build enthusiasm for his primary challenge to Fitzpatrick, which does not have the support of the Bucks County GOP. There were also people collecting signatures to get Donald Trump’s name on the Pennsylvania ballot.

Meehan said the Trump shop is a natural gathering place for people who support the president.

“I feel like I’m at home with my people,” he said. “You won’t find Congressman Fitzpatrick here though, because he does not support the president. I thought this was a great idea because there’s obviously a demand for products that are associated with President Trump. With the economy going the way it is and this impeachment nonsense being out behind him, the president is on a roll, and everyone is kind of feeling the mojo with President Trump right now, so I am too.”

Andy Meehan is running for Congress in Pennsylvania’s First District against Brian Fitzpatrick and has found the Trump Store to be a great location to collect signatures for the ballot. (Becca Haydu for WHYY)

A business is born

For store owner Domanico, a Chalfont resident, it all started four years ago, when he was selling graphic T-shirts he printed at local car shows. As Trump’s candidacy gained traction, people started to ask Domanico to make Trump-themed shirts.

“I made, I think, 10, and the next week at the car show I sold all of them in about half an hour,” Domanico said. “I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is great.’”

Michael Domanico, the owner of the Trump Store in Bensalem, holds “Trump hearts” for Valentine’s Day. (Becca Haydu for WHYY)

After that, Domanico said, he bought a tent screen-printed with the Trump insignia, and eventually a small trailer, and set up shop in front of an office he owns on State Road, as well at other events.

That led to his first indoor set-up, a kiosk inside Neshaminy Mall last Christmas-shopping season. But the kiosk sparked some controversy among mall patrons. During his short stint there, Domanico said, “angry Democrats” would come up to him multiple times a day and ask how he dared to sell those items at the mall.

Neshaminy Mall’s solution? He said he was asked to start selling Democratic paraphernalia — Warren, Sanders and Biden gear. But no one really bought any of it, Domanico said — the Democratic items made up less than half of 1% of his sales.

“They wouldn’t buy the Democratic items,” he said of the people who were outraged by his kiosk. “[They said,] ‘Well, I won’t buy from you because you support Trump.’”

Merchandise for sale at Michael Domanico’s “Trump Store” in Bensalem, Pennsylvania includes baseball hats with phrases like “Socialism Sucks.” (Becca Haydu for WHYY)

Domanico makes most of the T-shirts, mugs, water bottles, and little trinkets himself. But many of the other items he purchases from vendors. They don’t have to worry about paying any sort of franchise or royalty fees to the president or his business — the president encourages it, he said.

“We’ve been to official rallies, and there’s 20 to 30 vendors selling stuff right at the step of his rallies,” Domanico said. “They know it’s there, and they don’t say anything.”

He said The Trump Store has been way more successful than he expected. Saturday was his busiest day so far, with people traveling from all over the region. On Friday, he said, a couple drove from Ohio just to visit it.

Domanico thinks part of the shop’s popularity can be connected to how people are feeling more comfortable talking about their support for Trump — particularly in the battleground First District in Bucks County. Trump lost Bucks to Hillary Clinton in 2016 by fewer than 3,000 votes. 

“I think it brings out all the closet Trump people that are afraid to come out, but now when they see The Trump Store, they come out,” Domanico said. “I think the job that he has done has changed a lot of people. I’ve heard from many Democrats at the Neshaminy Mall, saying that they didn’t vote for him before, but they are voting for him this time.”

Michele D’Anjolell shops at the Trump Store on Saturday. She traveled from Upper Darby and described feeling alienated as a member of the LGBTQ community who supports Trump. (Becca Haydu for WHYY)

Loyal locals turn out

Michelle Miller of Warminster came to check out the store for the first time Saturday. She’s been a Trump fan since the start of his campaign because she was tired of “politics as usual.” She said she knows he’s not the most couth guy, and sometimes upsets her with his actions or his words, but she thinks the policies he promotes are helping the United States.

It’s also partly personal, Miller said: Her father was directly affected by the North American Free Trade Agreement. He worked for Glidden Paints in central Pennsylvania but lost his job when the company moved some of its factories to Canada.

“So I love the fact that he wants to promote manufacturing and business in America and taking pride, and really keeping the playing field even,” said Miller, who also works in manufacturing.

Eric Frieze of Philadelphia shops at the Trump Store in Bensalem. (Becca Haydu for WHYY)

She added that a lot has changed in the last three years since Trump won, with people coming out of their shells to show their support for the president. Miller pointed to an economy on the upswing and Trump’s hard-line with tariffs on China.

The strip mall that’s home to The Trump Store has a diverse set of businesses. (Roughly one in five of Bensalem’s 60,000 residents are foreign-born.) Next door is Bakery 502, which also sells Guatemalan cheese and pacaya.

Prince Amoako owns Kwahu Market, an African goods shop a few doors down from The Trump Store. Amoako said that many of the people who go there don’t live around Bensalem and that most probably won’t come into his store. But overall, he doesn’t mind the increased foot traffic.

Bobbie Murphy, a Realtor from Bensalem, is an organizer with People 4 Trump, a grassroots political organization run by Bucks County businessman Jim Worthington. She couldn’t wait to come to check out The Trump Store.

One of the reasons why people love the Trump brand so much is because the president is a “great marketer,” she said.

“He knows how to play the press,” Murphy said. “He knows how to play the people with his marketing. But it’s good, you gotta get it out there. He knows how to tweet.”

Bobbie Murphy shops at the Trump Store in Bensalem. (Becca Haydu for WHYY)

Saturday night, Murphy was helping to host a People 4 Trump event at the Newtown Athletic Club in Bucks County.  She said roughly 1,000 people were expected to attend the “pre-election launch rally” featuring conservative political analyst Erin Elmore, pro-Trump national commentator Jack Posobiec, and Dion Cini, who was described on the flyer as a “Trump enthusiast banned from Disneyland.” (Elmore and Posobiec are both from the Philly area.)

Murphy said she sees the store as a sign of change for Bucks County.

“People are waking up,” she said. “They’re opening their eyes, they’re saying, `Yes, I want what he stands for. I want freedom, I want the wall, I want this country protected from all our enemies, everywhere,’ and he’s doing all that.”

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