Owners of The Trumped Store Coffee House in Show Low, Arizona, are delivering President Donald Trump souvenir merchandise to the faithful.
SHOW LOW â€”Â Herbert Clark came to the Trumped Store here looking for a green Veterans For Trump hat.
But more than the cap, Clark really wanted some Trump-style political conversation.
“Are we on the McSally bandwagon?” he asked, sounding if he was not fully ready to support Martha McSally for the open Arizona U.S. Senate seat.
Clark, standing near the cardboard cutouts of Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump that stand sentinel at the store’s entrance, was a fan of Kelli Ward, the more Trumpian-conservative whom McSally beat in the GOP primary. Though her name briefly escaped him.
“What’s-her-name was good, but she couldnâ€™t get the message out,” said Clark, who recently moved from the Phoenix suburbs to retire in Show Low.
Yes, the Trumped Store is a one-stop emporium of all mannerÂ of President Donald J. Trump merchandise â€”Â T-shirts, caps, Trump teddy bears and talking Trump toilet paper rolls.
But the Trumped Store doesnâ€™t live off tchotchkes alone.
It serves as a clubhouse, a spot where Trump fans can have the kinds ofÂ like-mindedÂ conversations that might turn heads and raise eyebrows at the diner or coffee shop down the street.
Sure, New York has Trump Tower. But Show Low, a small city in northeastern Arizona, has what its owners say appears to be the country’s only store dedicated to selling Trump itemsÂ â€”Â and nothing but.
Well, almost nothing: SomeÂ Italian coffee can be purchased, too. As far as the owners could tell, there are no Trump-branded coffee beans yet.
Those owners, Steve Slaton and Karen McKean, are thinking about getting a liquor license and adding wine to the mix. From the Trump Winery, of course.
The store has become a beacon of sorts for the Trumpian set. The large Trump sign atop the building and the banners hung across the entrance attractÂ passers-by along the state highway out front, which slows down to a municipal street as it drags through Show Low.
Slaton and McKean say they have had visitors from across the country and a few from around the world. A television crew from France was in a few weeks back, Slaton said, filming the store for a story.
“I could tell they were French because they were out here smoking,” said Theresa Coscia, 70, of Show Low, who managed to evade being on camera as she ducked in for her regular coffee.
Store opened for campaign, and customers kept coming
The store began by happenstance, a fluke that nobody involved thought would last into late 2018.
The Trumped Store is located in a former mechanic’s garage, one of several that used to dot this stretch of state highway to serve the steady stream of cars that broke down while traveling the mountain roads.
The garage had been converted to a thrift store, called Mission of Grace, that was connected to a non-denominational food kitchen.
But after thatÂ shuttered, the building stood vacant.
Co-owners Slaton and McKean took it over not with the aim of opening a business, but to spreadÂ the Trump message throughout the White Mountains area.
They made it into a campaign headquarters andÂ started byÂ giving out official campaign T-shirts from the green-gray building. When those ran out, they made their own copies.
â€œWe were telling people, ‘Hey, weâ€™re spending our own money on this,’â€ Slaton said. â€œSo people started buying them.â€
Instead of closing up the headquarters after the election, they turned it into a Trump emporium, expanding into the mechanic’s bay next door.
They designed their own Trump T-shirts â€”Â including one with the president shirtless, his muscle-bound chest filled with tattoos. And they scoured for Trump-related products. Hence the Trump flyswatter. AndÂ those Trump stuffed bears.
Business started booming. Inventory was snapped up.
The best seller â€”Â the official Make America Great Again red caps â€”Â have to be re-ordered every few weeks, Slaton said. The only items that don’t sell, Slaton said, were some of the handcrafted cutting boards or jams made by local artisans the couple used to stock out of kindness.
They soon realized that if an item wasn’t related to the 45th president, it would not sell in this store.
The weekdays are slow but steady. The coffee shop brings in regulars for Trump-and caffeine-fueled conversation.Â
But the weekends are jammed, Slaton said. Especially during the summer as visitorsÂ from Phoenix and Tucson escapeÂ the city heat for the mountains and floodÂ in, attracted to the novelty of an all-Trump retail outlet.
The Trumped Store, with its signs, banners and an inflatable character from the film “Deplorable Me” out front,Â is one of the most visible attractions along Show Low’s sleepy and oddly-named main street, Deuce of Clubs.
The street and the city get their names from the same story.Â Legend has it two men played a card game for a ranch in the area.Â It was decided that whoever could “show low,” drawing the lowest card from the deck, would take it. The winner drew the deuce of clubs.
A statue commemorating the game sits in the city park, next to the Trumped Store.
Fitting, since the two co-owners appear to have played their Trump card correctly.
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A first-timers experience atÂ the store
People who walk into the Trumped Store for the first time seem to follow a familiar pattern. They walk in marveling that there is a place packed with allÂ things Trump. And, as they maneuver through the shelves, theyâ€™ll start talking with the ownersÂ about the store.
And before long, the talk will turn to something Trump said or did. Or the lunacy of the liberals who oppose him. Or how someone will have to hold their nose and vote for a so-called Republican because they are better than a Democrat.
Itâ€™s talk punctuated by laughs and smiles and personal stories.
Â And, sure since theyâ€™re here, wrap up one of those Trump coffee mugs.
While Clark was waiting to see if his green Veterans for Trump hat was in the back, he pointed out the other T-shirts and caps he already bought.
â€œIâ€™ve got this one. Iâ€™ve got that one,â€ he said.
Clark canâ€™t talk Republican politics as easily at his home, which is split on Trump. And he definitely cannot discuss Trump with his North Carolina relatives, who he says believe Trump is Satan.
â€œIâ€™m going, ‘Wow, what did he do?’ Heâ€™s Satan and thatâ€™s just it,â€ he said. â€œSo, conversation is over.â€
The hat Clark wanted, which McKean thought she set aside for him, was gone.
â€œIâ€™m always selling things, you know,â€ she told him.
â€œThatâ€™s OK. Thatâ€™s all right,â€ Clark replied. Heâ€™d be back for more commerce and conversation.
From around a table of merchandise, a customer asked: â€œDid you see these little doggy dresses?â€
It was Diana Roche of Vail, Arizona, who was up to spend a weekend in Show Low.
Roche had been to the store a half-dozen times since driving by and noticing the unmistakable Trump signs out front. She pulled into the parking lot, marked for “deplorables only,”Â and felt at home.
“This place is wonderful,â€ she said. â€œWhere can you come to feel validated?â€
Roche admired the doggy dresses hand-sewn by an area woman. They appeared to be made from a fabric decorated with a barn in a meadow. The special touch was the Trump name sewn into the barn’s roof in large red letters.
Meanwhile, her grandchildren, Bradley and Christian, were spinning the toilet paper roll in the store bathroom. As they did, a familiar voice echoed off the porcelain: “I will be the greatest President that God ever created.”
Roche said that with her neighbors in Vail, â€œwe donâ€™t talk politics much,â€ she said. â€œWith personal friends we do, but we donâ€™t know the general feeling.â€
Here, in the Trumped Store, the general feeling is well known.
Here, Trump calling Mexican immigrants rapists and murderersÂ is not considered racist.
Ask Amanda Juarez, 32, visiting with Roche from Vail. â€œItâ€™s actually the real stuff people say,â€ she said. â€œItâ€™s honest and itâ€™s real. Heâ€™s just not afraid to say it.â€
And, sure, the $8.5 trillion added to the deficit by President Barack Obama may have been a cause for worry, as it wasÂ for Bob Kern, 64. But, the trillion added to the deficit by Trump will be rectified through the trickle down of tax cuts.
â€œThe only thing that works,â€ he said, as his grandchildren posed for pictures with the cardboard First Lady,Â â€œis to cut taxes to increase growth.â€
In conversation within the store, the crowds at Trump rallies are not described as being filled with people who name-call and occasionally throw punches. Roche described attending one in Phoenix and feeling at peace.
â€œItâ€™s like camaraderie,â€ she said. â€œEverybody likes everybody. The ones across the street were the ones causing the trouble.â€
Yes, the toilet paper roll and the plastic â€œFake Newsâ€ button, which come loaded with eight and seven Trump phrases, respectively, are both made in China. And the T-shirts are made in Honduras, Nicaragua and Haiti, the latter of which Trump reportedly referred to using a pejorative term that implied it was a toilet. Â
But thatâ€™s for naysayers to point out â€“ should they dare come in.
Every so often one does, Slaton said. He can spot them immediately. They canâ€™t hide the sneers. And they seem afraid to talk to Slaton and McKean as if they were a different species incapable of normal communication.
â€œYou can tell all the time whoâ€™s who and whoâ€™s what,â€ Slaton said. â€œThey come in, take pictures, not say a word and they leave.â€
Sometimes theyâ€™ll toss out an insult as they head out the door, McKean said. â€œI canâ€™t believe you support that man,â€ she offered by way of example.
Sheâ€™s glad to see them go.
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Fondness for Trump creates a deeper bond
Slaton and McKeanÂ had been involved in Tea Party efforts in Scottsdale (for him)Â and Tucson (for her)Â before moving to Show Low. There, they each aimed to get the Trump ground game going in the White Mountains.
They met through those effortsÂ and found they jibed both politically â€“ and romantically. They became a couple.
After Trump was elected, the pair thought they would keep the store going through Christmas. Then up until the inauguration. Then, they bought the fancy espresso machine and figured to make it permanent.
Customers started asking for special designs of shirts. So the couple started making their own, having them made at White Mountain Tees,Â without researching whether doing so was legal.
â€œWe just went for it,â€ McKean said. â€œWe kind of crossed our fingers.â€
Trump did trademark the phrase, â€œMake America Great Againâ€ in 2012. And, according to a CNN story, had his lawyers send a cease and desist letter to the online T-shirt maker, CafÃ© Press.
A lawyer for the Trump Organization did not return a request for comment.
But Slaton said he thought that the store is on solid ground. He is certain that Trump has heard of the store by now and there has been no action taken.
McKean thought that Trump must have benignly endorsed the sale of Trump-related merchandise.
â€œGod bless him, right? Whoâ€™s the free-enterprise guy? Trump. So he made all this possible,” she said.
Politics in Show Low
Though the Trumped Store plants a highly-visible flag â€“Â actually a large Trump banner â€“Â along Show Low’s main drag, the city itself is undergoing small political changes.
Democrats in the area have organized for the first time in a while, Slaton said, holding meetings further north at a market along Deuce of Clubs. He worries that an influx of retirees from California and Oregon are bringing the political thoughts of those states into what had been a reliably Republican area.
The store has detractors. One woman, in a letter published in the White Mountain Independent, called it an â€œembarrassment,â€ especially given its prominent location on the cityâ€™s main street. â€œI take the back streets,â€ she wrote, â€œespecially with out-of-town guests because I cannot explain the existence of this venue.â€
The store was spray painted with anti-TrumpÂ graffiti in August 2017 and someone placed a small profane sticker on an A-frame welcome sign in March.
Slaton has found his parking lot filled with garbage he figures was dumped by liberals holding a get-out-the-vote rally in the neighboring park.
The storeâ€™s phone receives regular death threats. And, Slaton said, this spring a woman visiting from Oregon gave him a karate chop in the neck to punctuate a screaming match about health care after he escorted her outside the store.
â€œWe know weâ€™re targets,â€ Slaton said.
Slaton also has made himself a bit of a target in the swirling world of White Mountain politics. He was removed as chairman of the Navajo County Republican Committee in December. MacKean also was removed from an administrative position.
That was the culmination of a feud Slaton started with Republican state lawmaker Sylvia Allen, who represents a district in the White Mountains.
Slaton said he thought that Allen was both corrupt, passing legislation to benefit her own charter school in the area, and not conservative enough.
Allen, in an e-mail, said that there was no need toÂ comment on the situation. But sheÂ went on to write that Slaton’s “leadership style has gotten him into conflicts with those he tried to lead.”
She said it was his own fault he lost his leadership positions. “I feel bad that he is so angry for me for once we had been friends,” she wrote.
Coming in 2024: A Mike Pence store?
Slaton refers to himself as a “Trumpican,”rather than a Republican. And the store carries a T-shirt with such a phrase and a logo with an elephant sporting a Trumpian-cowlick of blond hair.
â€œThe GOP is corrupt as hell,â€ he said. â€œAround here, you mention the GOP, they donâ€™t want nothing to do with it.â€
And, during an afternoon spent in the store, it appeared the political affection began and ended with Trump.
There was little love shown for other Arizona Republicans such asÂ McSallyÂ or Gov. Doug Ducey.Â U.S. Senator Jeff Flake received outright disdain.
Which raised the question: What happens after the Trump presidency? In this store, of course, that only ends after a second term. Could a Mike Pence store hold the same appeal in 2024?
“A lot of people love him,” Slaton said.
MacKean added, â€œWeâ€™ll find out in six years.”
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