Thursday, April 19, 2018
Politics

Pop-up shop sells unconventional political merchandise

TAMPA — Tricia Everett walked into the store Saturday with her husband and granddaughter and was enthralled.

All around were signs of the coming Republican National Convention.

In the front was a Barack Obama punching bag. Along the walls were novelty T-shirts that read "Nobama,'' "Mitt is Legit'' and "Keep Calm and Vote Republican.'' Bumper stickers urged customers not to drink the "Obama Kool-aid.'' Bins were filled with "Mitt Romney for President'' pins.

But what finally got her attention was a little stuffed bear with an elephant on it.

"Hey Miss Polly, let's get the little bear," Everett cooed to her granddaughter. "We're so happy to have found this shop."

The store is American Emporium, a pop-up memorabilia shop on N Franklin Street. It's the only one of its kind in the downtown area. It opened Friday and will stay open for three weeks, hoping to capitalize on the more than 50,000 visitors expected for the convention, said Richard Moore, a Tampa manufacturer who is running the store.

He opened it up after he found nobody else had applied for a business permit.

It has been slow so far, with mostly locals coming. Moore said he expects business to pick up with the start of the convention.

Although the majority of the merchandise targets Republicans, there's a fair amount that's pro-Obama.

Moore said he'll sell to all types.

"It's Americana," he said. "People take it too seriously."

He said he gets a lot of people coming in who are upset by the overt show of politics.

Will Cooper, 24, came into the store, checking out the T-shirts. A Romney supporter, he liked the variety in the store. He was surprised that it would offer pro-Obama merchandise.

One thing he didn't love: the Obama punching bag.

"I dislike Obama, but I don't know if we need to pretend to be punching a president," he said. "I don't know what that really proves."

Moore said the punching bags have been one of his best sellers: About 20 in the first day.

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