Trump store opens in heart of contested Philadelphia suburbs

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In this Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020, photo, a man walks to The Trump Store in Bensalem, Pa. The shop selling President Donald Trump-themed merchandise in a strip mall in suburban Philadelphia has emerged as a magnet for the presidents backers and a reflection of Pennsylvanias status as a political battleground this year. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

BENSALEM, Pa. – A shop selling President Donald Trump-themed merchandise in a suburban Philadelphia strip mall has emerged as a magnet for the president’s backers and a reflection of Pennsylvania’s status as a political battleground this year.

The Trump Store in Bensalem specializes in gear fit for the president's biggest fans — T-shirts promoting a border wall, hats, beanies, mugs with his cartoon face, even an inflatable innertube with Trump's head flashing two thumbs up. On a recent weekday afternoon, it did steady business over about three hours, with two to three customers continually streaming in and out.

The town is on a political fault line, tilting slightly Democratic in recent presidential elections, though Trump improved the GOP's fortunes in 2016 over Republicans' 2012 performance. Experts are watching the region as a key to the presidential race. In fact, Trump is slated to hold a town hall in Scranton on Thursday evening, about two hours from Bensalem.

Mike Domanico, the shop’s owner, is a former general contractor who got into the T-shirt business in 2017, when he noticed that the 10 or so Trump shirts he offered for sale at car shows sold out fast. Domanico, 60, himself a Trump backer who said he’s been following him since the 1980s, opened a kiosk in a nearby mall before expanding to the store early this year.

The shop does about 350 sales a day, with the average customer spending about $60, according to Domanico. The top sellers are two T-shirts, he said: one that has the president’s signature in gold above a brick wall and says, “Border Wall Construction Co." The phrases “Build the Wall” and “Deport Them All” are printed underneath.

The other alludes to former President Barack Obama, saying, “Trump 45 Because the 44 didn’t work for 8 years.” The shirt has a golden gun on it, an apparent pun of .45-caliber and .44-caliber handguns.

“People that love Trump, they really love him,” Domanico said. “They want to wear the hats, the shirts, bumper stickers and mugs. They want to show their support. I think that’s what it’s all about.”

The president's signature red caps, though, aren't in the lineup. Domanico said he wouldn't stock Make America Great Again or Keep America Great merchandise because of a trademark the Trump campaign holds on those slogans.