WASHINGTON - “I like these,” says college student Henry Jones, pointing to Donald Trump baseball caps in the American flag colors of red, white or blue. He and a few of his buddies from Berry College in Georgia are walking around the Washington Welcome Center, a privately-owned store packed with D.C. souvenirs and political memorabilia. Jones and his friends are enthusiastic supporters of the man who will be America’s 45th president.
“I think he’s got some good qualities, and I know he has his bad qualities too,” says Jones, who is donning the navy blue cap he’s decided to buy. “But I think he’ll bring a lot to this country, and as a businessman, I think he can do a lot for the economy.”
The baseball caps with the president-elect’s catch phrase “Make America Great Again” are the hottest-selling Trump souvenirs, says store manager Dexter Morse. “We can’t keep them on the shelves.”
Other items like buttons, calendars and pens are now overtaking the window displays that once belonged to President Barack Obama. Besides the usual T-shirts, a mug displays a glowing family photo of Donald, Melania and 10-year-old Barron. A kitschy shot glass with Trump’s smiling face sits near a classier carry-on bag with the presidential seal. There’s even a Trump bobblehead and a paperweight.
They all add up to big revenue for the store when tens of thousands of Trump supporters converge on Washington during inauguration week, Morse says.
Premium prices for hotel rooms
Hotels are also cashing in on the events, which include the swearing in of the new president on January 20, the inaugural parade and various balls. Although some hotels still have available rooms, Washington’s top-rated and most expensive hotel, the Four Seasons, in the upscale Georgetown area, is sold out even with special, much higher prices for the inauguration. The large, contemporary-styled presidential suites cost up to $20,000 per night.
“You have to have a certain style of living to be able to afford a four-night minimum with a starting rate of $2,000 for a room,” explains David Bernand, the hotel’s general manager. “We have people coming from political parties. We have people from the business side and people from banks.”
Notably missing will be the many Hollywood celebrities who were prominent at the hotel during both of Obama’s presidential inaugurations. Most of the guests for the Trump inauguration will come from states that supported the president-elect, but there will be a few international visitors as well, like diplomats.
With the high price tag, come extra services.
“We’ve got hand warmers available for them, hats and things like that,” Bernand says, “Just things to make it more convenient for them.”
The hotel is also providing a gift to each room over the four days, culminating with a $350 handcrafted leather stationery box embossed in 24 karat gold with the symbol of the presidential seal.
Despite the excitement from Trump supporters who are coming from across the United States, the atmosphere is subdued in strongly Democratic Washington.
“The mood is not as jovial, and there hasn’t been as much excitement as when Obama was elected," Bernand says. “I think a lot of people were taken aback in this area when Trump won.”
Washington couture dressmaker, Diana My Tran, says she has not designed one gown for the upcoming balls but made many for both Obama inaugurations.
Long-time Washington area resident Patty Hagan, who voted for Hillary Clinton, says she and everyone else she knew “was in shock and now we’re in mourning.”
But Alexandria, Virginia hair salon owner, Divo Le, is hoping Trump will make America great again. Instead of joining the crowds downtown, he’s planning to watch the events on television.
Morse says he hears comments in the Washington Welcome Center from both Democrats and Republicans who come into the store. “The Republicans speak on money issues or what’s going on economically in America, whereas the Democrats will seek out the problems and talk about what’s on the news, like if they cut Obamacare.”