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January 14, 2013

Souvenir Shops Gear Up for Inauguration

by Carolyn Presutti

Souvenir shops in the nation's capital are gearing up for President Barack Obama's second inauguration on Monday, Jan. 21.

Stores around Washington, D.C., expect it to be the second largest inauguration in history, second only to Mr. Obama’s first one.

One souvenir shop, conveniently named White House Gifts, offers free photos -with any purchase- in an Oval Office replica. But this week the Oval Office set will be moved out to make room for more keepsake-hunting tourists.

People like customer Karen Smeltzer, who says she'll spend $3500 on a hotel, food and gifts. “I think the second term is just as important, if not more important than the first term, because he was re-elected as our president.”

General Manager Andy Gallagher oversees what he says it the largest souvenir warehouse in Washington. It's full of inauguration-themed items like candy, snow globes, bobble heads, key chains, coins, toys, plates, hats, mugs and lots of t-shirts.

Preparations for the inauguration began election night. Just after 11 p.m., Gallagher says he called his vendors and said, “'It’s Obama and Biden. Start printing,' and we had the full set up the following morning when we opened the stores.”  

Then, they hired "Bertha," a custom-made electric cart which maneuvers through downtown Washington and delivers merchandise to the company's retail stores. Bertha beats any car stuck in rush hour traffic.

But sales aren’t up at the sidewalk vendors. The DC government says fewer than one-fourth of them applied for an inaugural permit this time.

But for others, an inauguration holds promise.  

“Twice as nice, only because he won twice, you know?” says Domingo Canate, who designed his own inaugural shirt and is hawking it to stores. "America’s all about opportunities and creating opportunities for oneself, and this inauguration is an ideal opportunity to create a business around a shirt.”

All aimed at commemorating a day which will make history as the president is sworn in for a second term.