Vendors seek opportunity during RNC

Florida tech entrepreneurs Chase Grause and Hayden Whetsonesell “Trump Socks” merchandise during the 2016 Republican National Convention on Wednesday, July 20, 2016. 

Alex Delaney-Gesing

 An inevitable factor of hosting an event as large as the Republican National Convention is the seemingly endless array of pro and anti candidate merchandise.

From the standard street corner souvenirs of T-shirts and hats to parodies of children’s literature books featuring the election’s top candidates, vendors from all over have flocked downtown to make a profit from the influx of potential customers.

Chase Grause and Hayden Whetstone, tech entrepreneurs from Florida working to launch a startup company, operated a booth on E. 4th Street featuring their original Donald Trump socks.

Inspired by the online home rental company Airbnb—who created Obama O’s” and “Cap’n McCain’s” cereal to sell at the 2008 political conventions as a way to dig itself out of debt—the duo decided to design and sell socks around the convention proceedings.

“We have Hillary Clinton socks too,” Grause said, “but we thought there was more of a marketing opportunity for Trump.”

The socks, which feature Trump’s face and upper torso knitted onto the foot and upper ankle, sell for an advertised $20.16, Grause said.

‘It’s a marketing technique that we thought would be catchy for the election season,” Grause said. “Obviously with tax, it costs more, but so far it’s worked.”

While Grause claimed bipartisanship in terms of candidate support, his business partner was blunt with his own views.

“Trump all the way,” Whetstone said. “Not to be cliche or corny, but I really do think he will make America great again. We’re going to build that wall.”

Stationing himself up and down Euclid Avenue throughout the day was whoopee cushion seller Chris Hume.

Hume took the red-eye from his Los Angeles home to spend a few days in Cleveland selling his personalized “Make America Toot Again” Trump-themed whoopee cushions.

While promoting his product to pedestrians walking by—“Get your own ultimate, deflatable Donald,” he said—Hume made his support evident.

“I’m actually helping to fund the Democratic Senate by doing this. That’s where I would put the (cushion profits) to,” he said. “As far as Trump, you don’t even know what he stands for. He’s a cipher, basically a nothing. A lot of hot air.”

Hume said that his support lies with Clinton.

“She’s better than Trump,” he said. “Not perfect—we all know that—but when it comes to health care, education (and) women’s rights, she’s for (the better).”

Not too far from Hume was Khalil Abullah, a lifelong resident of Cleveland, leaned against the roadblock positioned in front of E. 4th Street.

With an American flag bandana tied around his head, Abullah wore a blue and red striped button-down. He came to downtown with his patriotic choice of merchandise to sell, he said, because he’s an opportunist.

“I just got the idea the other day to get some American flags and come here,” he said. “Everybody else has got T-shirts and what-not, but I just came up with this off the top of my head.”

The GOP proceedings taking place within the Quicken Loans Arena this week weren’t part of  Abullah’s spur of the moment decision to venture into the city. In fact, he said, he doesn’t want anything to do with politics.

“It’s all about money, anyway,” he said. “Trump may be an idiot, but he’s a businessman. And he didn’t get that way by being stupid”

Abullah’s dislike for the presidential candidate also extends to its opposing party.

“Hillary (Clinton) is a crook,” he said. “But then again, all the politicians these days are crooks.”

While Abullah isn’t certain who he will end up voting for in the general election, he made one thought clear: Everybody needs to vote.

“A lot of people say they won’t vote because they just don’t like either of the (major party) candidates,” he said. “But to say that, it’s a dangerous thing. They need to vote or else they can’t help to make a change.”

Contact Alex Delaney-Gesing at [email protected]