Obama Fever Grips DC Shop Owners (story and slideshow)
Vendors mark historic inaugural with Obama-themed products, services
Washington, DC — The Whole Foods on P Street had stocked more champagne for inaugural weekend than it had for New Year’s Eve.
The upscale grocer was also carrying special beers in honor of (then) President-elect Barack Obama’s home states, including 312 wheat ale from Chicago’s Goose Island brewery and Pipeline Porter coffee beer from Hawaii’s Kona Brewing Company. The store also stocked up on Heileman’s Old Style beer.
“Obama’s known to drink it,” said Whole Food’s specialty team member Scott Witzlsteiner.
Located in the middle of D.C.’s Logan Circle neighborhood, a hotel hotspot, the Whole Foods is a popular stop for hungry and thirsty tourists.
“Our sales have been way up all month,” Witzlsteiner said. “People have been in a celebratory mood this January.”
With an estimated two million people expected to visit on inaugural weekend, local businesses hoped for huge sales, and rolled out merchandise designed for the occasion. The city gets over 16.1 million tourists annually, said Carla Barry-Austin, spokesperson for the official tourism agency Destination D.C, with out-of-towners spending over $5.2 billion on hotels, dining, shopping and entertainment in 2008 alone.
Street vendors sold Obama pins, framed posters and party favors. Area bars had Budweiser-branded “Official Inauguration Headquarters” signs in their front windows, and drink specials like the Round Robin’s “Obama Shake,” made with fruit, cream, and vodka to be “tall and cool” like its namesake.
ACKC, a specialty chocolate shop on 14th Street, was ready for big business. Most people were expected on foot, and with temperatures expected to be 31 degrees at most, the shop hoped to sell many $4.25 hot chocolates.
For the occasion, they created a special Choc-Obama drink—a minty hot chocolate sprinkled with peppermint stick.
“It’s infused with mint because we think [Obama’s] cool and refreshing,” said Eric Nelson, ACKC owner.
The shop, festooned with red, white and blue decorative fans and balloons, also carries $8.50 hand-painted milk chocolate bars with Obama’s face stenciled in dark chocolate; $38 boxes of cherry blossom chocolate truffles stenciled with the presidential seal; $3.50 chocolate and vanilla cupcakes with the Obama new horizon “O”; and $15 t-shirts emblazoned with Barack Obama’s image asking, “Loco4Cocoa?”
Third-grader Lelia Dunn, 8, of Richmond, Va., made her way to the register with her aunt in tow to buy one of the Choc-Obama bars.
“I love Obama. I am going to treasure this bar forever and never eat it,” said Dunn, who was to miss school on Tuesday to be at the inauguration.
A few minutes later, holding her new bar under her nose and inhaling the chocolate-mint aroma, she hedged. She might eat it, she said, but only after showing the edible inaugural weekend souvenir to her classmates when she returned to Richmond.