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Published: Monday, 1/25/2010

Inauguration sales just so-so for area vendor

BY GARY T. PAKULSKI
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Cynthia Glover was among about 1,000 souvenir vendors from across the country who paid $700 each to set up stands Tuesday. Cynthia Glover was among about 1,000 souvenir vendors from across the country who paid $700 each to set up stands Tuesday.
JETTA FRASER / THE BLADE Enlarge | Buy This Photo

The first test of the Obama Administration's economic stimulus potential ended with mixed results for a Toledo woman.

Souvenir vendors had hoped to rack up big profits hawking everything from T-shirts to towels to 1 million people who descended on the streets of Washington on Tuesday for the inauguration of the nation's first African-American president.

"It was slow in the morning because everybody went right to the inauguration," said Cynthia Glover, who drove from Toledo to Washington on Sunday with her brother, a friend, and several thousand shirts, caps, and buttons.

The former Chrysler Corp. worker expects to turn a profit, but was left with much unsold merchandise - even after dropping prices by half late in the afternoon.

She was among about 1,000 souvenir vendors from across the country who paid $700 each to set up stands Tuesday.

"Some people did pretty good," said Michael Rupert, a spokesman for Washington's Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs. "Some spots weren't as trafficked as others. But in terms of traffic, you're not going to get a busier day in Washington, D.C."

The only complaints received by the city were about unlicensed vendors trying to muscle in on the action. But officials quickly shut down those operations, Mr. Rupert said.

Ms. Glover sold more than half of her inventory, but declined to talk about how much she took in. Had she sold everything at full price, she would have had about $70,000 in gross revenue.

The Toledo woman, who had originally planned to attend the inauguration as a spectator, wasn't pleased with the city's oversight of souvenir sales. "It was very disorganized," she said.

Souvenir stands at K Street near 15th Street were much more concentrated than Ms. Glover had expected.

By noon, when the new president was scheduled to take the oath of office, Ms. Glover had been awake for 24 hours.

All along, she was more interested in witnessing history than engaging in commerce.

So, cold and tired, she left her brother to tend the booth and ducked inside a nearby hotel to watch Mr. Obama's inaugural address.

While waiting, she briefly dozed off on a couch in the lobby. "Do you have a room?" a security guard inquired as he awakened her.

Reacting to her startled look, he told her where she was. She explained her situation and asked, "Did he do his speech yet?"

The security guard brought her a cup of hot chocolate and pointed her to a television in the hotel lounge.

As patrons listened to the talk from inside the crowded bar, Ms. Glover watched through glass from the lobby.

"I couldn't hear very well," she admitted.

Sales and traffic picked up at her souvenir stand after the inauguration.

The most popular item was a $5 button - later reduced to $1 - with Mr. Obama's photo and the words "I was there."

Also popular were T-shirts bearing images of Mr. Obama, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King as well as shirts showing pictures of the new president and his predecessors.

Ms. Glover hopes to sell her remaining merchandise in the Toledo area when she returns. She can be reached at changecrew@att.net.

Contact Gary Pakulski at:

gpakulski@theblade.com

or 419-724-6082.



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