What began five years ago with the made-for-TV announcement of Donald Trump’s presidential ambitions from the escalator of his ritzy Manhattan high-rise ended Saturday with his aging lawyer shouting conspiracy theories and vowing lawsuits in a Northeast Philadelphia parking lot, near a sex shop and a crematorium.
In hindsight, the hastily arranged news conference featuring Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, just minutes after Joe Biden had been declared the victor of the 2020 race, delivered a fitting end to a campaign that had been at times characterized by its slapdash techniques.
But the question of how a landscaping company in Holmesburg became the backdrop for what could have been one of the Trump team’s last public gasps in its bid to reverse the results quickly captured the public’s imagination.
It started Saturday morning, with a presidential tweet that, as has often happened during the last four years, Trump’s advisers quickly scrambled to correct.
Trump announced: “Lawyers News Conference Four Seasons, Philadelphia, 11 a.m.,” only to delete his post minutes later and replace it with one changing the venue from the upscale Center City hotel to a similarly named business: Four Seasons Total Landscaping on industrial State Road, next to Fantasy Island Adult Books and Novelties and across the street from the Delaware Valley Cremation Center.
“To clarify, President Trump’s news conference will NOT be held at Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia,” the hotel’s management tweeted out minutes later. “It will be held at Four Seasons Total Landscaping — no relation with the hotel.”
But by then, many on social media were already delighting in a booking they assumed must have been a mistake.
The New York Times reported Saturday that Giuliani and Trump adviser Corey Lewandowski had always intended the news conference to take place in a section of Philadelphia where they might receive a more welcomed reception than at the raucous celebrations of Joe Biden’s victory going on in Center City. It was the president, the paper reported, who had misunderstood.
As for why Four Seasons Total Landscaping? Giuliani offered no explanation Saturday and made no mention of the company or its owner, Marie Siravo, during his remarks. Tom Matkowski, GOP ward leader for the neighborhood, said the news conference hadn’t been coordinated with the local Republican Party and that he didn’t believe the Siravo family was active in local party politics.
The phone at Four Seasons went unanswered throughout the day, and Siravo did not return calls for comment.
Her social media posts indicate she and some of her family members were vocal, but not necessarily unshakable, Trump supporters.
“We don’t need to invite him for dinner,” Siravo posted in August, in response to a “Conservative Hangout” Facebook page that listed Trump’s accomplishments in office. “We just need him to fix our country & all the democratic mess.” She added that she had been “raised a Democrat.”
In a Facebook post, the Four Seasons team described itself as a “family-owned small business run by lifelong Philadelphians” that would have “proudly hosted any presidential candidate’s campaign.”
“We strongly believe in America and in democracy,” the message read. In light of the attention, it promised it would have Four Seasons merchandise ready to sell by next week.
While Giuliani spoke Saturday outside the business against a backdrop of “Trump-Pence” signs, he drew a local crowd of supporters, waving flags and booing reporters as campaign staff called on them to identify what news outlets they were representing. But as news of Biden’s victory spread, the group’s noise was rivaled by the honking horns of cars with “Biden-Harris” signs zipping down the nearby road.
Meanwhile, online, jokes about the locale proliferated. T-shirts popped up for sale featuring Gritty riding a tractor under the slogan “Not the Four Seasons Hotel” and the company’s online reviews took a turn for the zany.
By afternoon, Yelp slapped the business' page with an “unusual activity alert” and temporarily disabled comments so it could investigate that incoming reviews "reflect actual consumer experiences rather than the recent events.”
On Google, one five-star reviewer posted: “When I was losing an election back in 2004, I knew exactly where to turn for a desperate, last minute news conference. Four Seasons Total Landscaping has the best combination of gardening and Pennsylvania electoral law litigation services. I didn’t win the election, but I sure had a great news conference.”
Even Lewandowski joined in the fun, tweeting: “All great Americans in PA use Four Seasons Total Landscaping. They love this country and are American Patriots.”
Back on State Road, by Sunday afternoon even tourists had flocked to the company’s barbed-wire gates, taking selfies with the signage and livestreaming the construction equipment and gravel parking lot.
“World’s greatest landmark!” said Katheryn Wlodarcyzk, who’d driven from Wayne with her dog, Emmett, just to see the building for herself. “No place more beautiful.”
The Four Seasons staff remained perplexed by their moment in the national spotlight. Kevin Moran, a foreman at the firm, simply shrugged when approached while opening the gate to the parking lot on Sunday. He said his boss got the call from Trump campaign staffers Saturday morning and thought they must have found the business on Google and been interested because it was a “secure location” set off from the street by a security fence.
As for the confusion with the hotel, Moran said, “everybody gets mixed up. There’s multiple Four Seasons. Four Seasons Hotel, there’s two Four Seasons Landscaping. We’re ‘Total;’ the other one, I think it’s just Landscaping.” (There’s a Four Seasons Diner, off Cottman Avenue, too. They weren’t involved, either, the hostess there said.)
But not all in the neighborhood were so amused. The 78-year-old employee manning the counter at the Fantasy Island sex shop, who declined to give his name, said the phone had been ringing off the hook since Saturday with callers asking: “Is Rudy Giuliani there?”
And despite the stream of new interest in the neighborhood, it hadn’t led to an uptick in business. The Trump train had taken all his parking spots, the worker complained. Then, the day after, normally the store’s busiest day of the week, more people than ever were gawking outside but none were stopping in to sample his wares.