As a member of the Urban League of Greater Cleveland, Ohio, small business owner Cheryl Weems jumped at the opportunity to sell her tasty walnut treats over four days at the Republican National Convention that wrapped up Thursday after Donald Trump was officially nominated as his party’s candidate.
The pop-up store was located in the 401 Huron Avenue parking lot directly across from the Quicken Loans Arena entrance, promising foot-traffic from about 50,000 convention-goers. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held Monday.
But late-Thursday afternoon, the final day of the convention, Weems told NewsOne she was feeling frustrated, saying she made up to 2,000 boxes of her treats, but had only sold 200 boxes at $6 each.
“The first couple of days were a little slow because we’re in a tent that’s kind of off the beaten path,” she said. “People are coming through and going straight to the Q [Quicken Loans Arena] and our tent is in the back. So what we’ve done over the last couple of days was to put a table outside of the tent, and we’re giving out samples. That is helping to drive business to the tent. A lot of people said they thought it was a security tent.”
Linda Moss, owner of a custom T-shirt business, said business was not as bad for her. She made up to $500 of extra products, selling about $200 worth in three-and-a-half days. The shirts, made in patriotic colors, noticeably did not mention Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump or his running mate Mike Pence.
“I’m so happy to be here under the umbrella of the Urban League for the RNC,” Moss, owner of Linda’s World Custom Designs, told NewsOne. “I did make extra products in order to sell at the convention.”
She said she was hoping to sell more T-shirts by the time the convention ended. C.J. Jordan, deputy political and community affairs director for the convention, expressed the same hope.
Jordan told NewsOne that the vendors adjusted their sales strategies over the four days to enhance sales. Besides Weems and Moss, other vendors included Selfie-Z LLC, Heads Hearts & Hands/Hall’s Mark LLC, Styles of Imagination Fashions, Rustic Refuge, and Tortilleria La Bamba LLC.
Michael Obi, chairman of the Urban League’s Minority Business Enterprise center, bolstered Jordan’s story, telling NewsOne that the pop-up was a pilot project designed to help small business owners hone their sales skills.
“We worked with them to adjust their sales strategies, and we saw progress each day,” he said.
Indeed, the pop up store appeared to be another security tent during the heavily policed convention, featuring law enforcement officers from U.S. Marshals, to Cleveland Police, to U.S. Secret Service. Inside, the convention featured a sprawling marketplace where vendors hawked everything from Trump-Pence T-shirts, to novelty beer mugs, to totes with Trump emblazoned on the side.
Outside the convention, Black street vendors sold Trump campaign merchandise to thousands of visitors, writes Tatyana Hopkins of Howard University News Service.
While we’re pleased the vendors had the opportunity to sell their wares at the RNC, organizers should have put more thought into the set up of the Urban League tent, which appeared to be segregated from the predominantly White convention. Need we say more? Sound off in the comments.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty