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Published: Tuesday, 6/26/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

‘First Lady garden gloves' pay off again for Toledo store

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
President Obama stopped at Fred's Pro Hardware during his 2011 visit to Toledo and picked out a pair of green and white gardening gloves for the First Lady with the help of store employee Matthew Wamsley. President Obama stopped at Fred's Pro Hardware during his 2011 visit to Toledo and picked out a pair of green and white gardening gloves for the First Lady with the help of store employee Matthew Wamsley.
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A year ago, Fred's Pro Hardware on Stickney Avenue got its 15 minutes of fame when President Obama visited Toledo and made a surprise visit to the store and bought a pair of green and white gardening gloves for First Lady Michelle Obama.

Recently, the retailer unexpectedly got another five minutes in the spotlight when the gloves were mentioned in two publications — the First Lady's new book on gardening, American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens across America, and in the June 4 issue of People magazine.

"In the book American Grown she actually states that he brought her a present back from Toledo, a pair of gardening gloves," said Chandra Brown, whose husband, Jeff, owns Fred's. "There are four pictures and it says the gardening gloves are from Fred's Pro Hardware in Toledo."

The People article features a photo of Mr. Obama giving the gloves to his wife but does not mention where they were purchased.

Mrs. Brown said family and friends alerted her to the magazine and book references. She had no idea the gloves remained a subject of attention, although customers still visit Fred's to buy pairs of the so-called "First Lady Gardening Gloves."

"It's been very good for our business, and that's good for the neighborhood," Mrs. Brown said. "We've sold hundreds of those gloves."

It was on June 3, 2011, that Mr. Obama spent $10.56 for the gloves as a surprise for his wife, an avid gardener. As luck would have it, the Browns were out of town that day taking their daughter, Katie, to participate in a sporting event. It was one of the few days a year that Mr. Brown takes off.

Mrs. Brown said photos were taken of the President's visit, and many copies were made for customers who have requested photos along with gloves that they purchase.

Weeks after the visit, the Browns received additional photos of the visit, compliments of the White House staff.

This week, Mrs. Brown went out and bought copies of American Grown and may display one in the store next to the photos. She said she plans to write a letter to Mrs. Obama thanking her for the mention in the book and send her another pair of gloves as a thank-you present.

"Whether you agree with the President or not, he is a very nice husband," Mrs. Brown said. "He went on a trip and he brought his wife back a present — and a practical one for something she loves."

Contact Jon Chavez at: jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.



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