At the new “Trump Store” in Bensalem, there are no “Biden” shirts or “Bernie” mugs.
Mike Domanico, who opened the shop for business Tuesday morning in a Street Road strip mall after manning a mall kiosk during the holidays, said the market has spoken on merchandise for Democratic presidential contenders.
It just doesn’t sell.
But slap President Donald Trump’s image or political slogans on a T-shirt, coffee mug, pen set, bumper sticker, hat, or magnet? That, Domanico says, he can peddle with no problem. He’s betting that Trump’s bid for a second term will mean expanding profits from political merchandise.
“I’m pretty sure he’s getting elected again,” Domanico said at the store Tuesday. “As long as he’s president, people are going to keep buying Trump items. As long as he wins, we may be here for four years.”
Customer Charles Bernsteel from Northeast Philadelphia paid $20 for a T-shirt that said “Trump 45” over a picture of a gold semiautomatic pistol emblazoned with a presidential seal. Under the gun were the words “Because the 44 didn’t work for 8 years..." — a knock on former President Barack Obama’s record.
“He’s helping the country out for the first time,” said Bernsteel, who is 58 and on disability after a construction accident. “We’ve got somebody in there with, shall I say, brass balls. He’s not going to take any crap. He’s not a politician. And that’s what I love about him.”
Bernsteel said there are Trump supporters in his neighborhood who keep quiet about it for fear of “backlash."
“It’s a joke," he said. “I laugh at it.”
Linda Gerard, a 70-year-old retiree from Northeast Philadelphia, came to the store already wearing a T-shirt that read, “Trump 2020 Keep America Great.” She and her husband, Allen, 71, also a retiree, planned to shop at other suburban stores Tuesday, but both said they wouldn’t “dare wear one of these shirts downtown” in Philadelphia.
Georgeanna Revell of Feasterville spent $30 on “Make America Great Again”-branded socks for a friend, some buttons, and two pens. Revell, 68, also said Trump is “not a politician," and credited him with a booming economy that allowed her to retire before 70.
“He’s a businessman, and he’s run businesses, and he’s been through bankruptcies and he’s been through hard times, and he’s come through it," Revell said. “And look what he’s doing with the economy.”
Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania by just 0.73% in the 2016 general election. It was key to his Electoral College victory, and remains a critical state in his reelection campaign. Clinton won Bucks County by a similar margin, 0.78%, and beat Trump by almost nine points in Bensalem.
Domanico ran a kiosk in the nearby Neshaminy Mall during the holidays, selling T-shirts, hats, mugs, stickers, and other Trump merchandise.
One T-shirt, emblazoned with the phrase “Border Wall Construction Co. — Build the wall, deport them all,” became a best-seller and was back on display Tuesday at the new store. But there were also complaints. A T-shirt that read “Trump 2020 — Finally someone with balls" offended some mall-goers as too racy to be prominently displayed.
The mall’s management company, wary of political controversy, insisted that Domanico also sell merchandise in support of Democratic candidates for president. He went along, printing up T-shirts and other items with logos for former Vice President Joe Biden and Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
“The experience with the kiosk was, nobody wanted the Democratic stuff,” said Domanico, who nevertheless found the retail market thriving enough to expand to a full-size store.
The search for that space mirrored Domanico’s hunt for a kiosk before the holiday season, when several malls declined to rent to him out of an abundance of caution. Domanico said he sought to rent six different stores, encountering landlords who worried about controversy, before David Fiori Realtors Inc. offered him a one-year lease.
“The landlord here was pro-Trump, so he was fine with it,” Domanico said.
Broker Victor Fiori did not respond to a request for comment.
Domanico also runs a building maintenance company in Bensalem and founded a T-shirt business from that office in 2017. He spent six months traveling around the state, selling Trump merchandise at festivals and rallies, before opening his kiosk.