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Obama's visit includes time for lunch, shopping

  • President-Barack-Obama-Rudys-Hot-Dogs-Marcy-kaptaur-Harry

    Mr. Obama ordered a chili dog, french fries, and a bowl of chili during the visit to Rudy’s as Mayor Mike Bell and U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur wait their turn. At right is Rudy’s co-owner Harry Dionyssiou.

    The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
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  • President-Barack-Obama-Freds-Pro-Hardware-Matthew-Wamsley-gardening-gloves

    The President made a stop at Fred’s Pro Hardware on Stickney Avenue, where Matthew Wamsley helped him pick out a couple pairs of green-and-white gardening gloves for First Lady Michelle Obama.

    The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
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  • Cooper-Spencer-Blake-Borowski-Whitehouse-Obama

    The Borowski brothers, from left, Cooper, Spencer, and Blake, of Whitehouse, got the President’s autograph on their boxes of M&M’s.

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  • President-Barack-obama-Toledo-Mayor-Mike-Bell-Rudys-Hot-Dogs

    Toledo Mayor Mike Bell and the President enjoy lunch at Rudy’s Hot Dog on Sylvania Avenue. It was the first stop for Mr. Obama’s motorcade after arriving in Toledo.

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President-Barack-obama-Toledo-Mayor-Mike-Bell-Rudys-Hot-Dogs

Toledo Mayor Mike Bell and the President enjoy lunch at Rudy’s Hot Dog on Sylvania Avenue. It was the first stop for Mr. Obama’s motorcade after arriving in Toledo.

The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
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In town for less than four hours on Friday, President Obama still managed to sign a few autographs, grab lunch at a local joint, pose for some photographs, and buy a couple pairs of gardening gloves for the First Lady.

“She doesn’t let me near the garden,” the President said of his wife, Michelle, in response to a hardware store employee’s question.

Mr. Obama jetted into Toledo Express Airport just before 11:30 a.m., where he was met on the tarmac by Toledo Mayor Mike Bell, U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), and a small group of Toledo-area friends and family members of people employed by the White House, the Secret Service, and the Air Force.

Among the special guests were the Borowski brothers, Blake, 10, Spencer, 6, and Cooper, 5, from Whitehouse. The three youngsters were brought by their father, who is friends with a Secret Service agent.

The President chatted with the boys and autographed their boxes of M&M’s. Blake, a fourth grader, was still excited when he later called his mother, Laura Rerucha, about the once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet and speak to a president.

“Mom, I had the jitters the whole time,” Blake told his mother.

According to the President, Ms. Rerucha said, the candy box autographs were a first for Mr. Obama.

“He told them it was the first time he’s signed a box of M&M’s,” she said.

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Cooper-Spencer-Blake-Borowski-Whitehouse-Obama

The Borowski brothers, from left, Cooper, Spencer, and Blake, of Whitehouse, got the President’s autograph on their boxes of M&M’s.

The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
Enlarge | Buy This Image

After Mr. Obama’s motorcade got on its way, the President’s first priority was lunch. At Mr. Bell’s suggestion, the group went to a Rudy’s Hot Dog restaurant on Sylvania Avenue, about four miles from Chrysler Group LLC’s Toledo Assembly complex.

It was an unexpected visit for Rudy’s co-owner Andy Dionyssiou.

“I thought they were joking. What is this guy doing, trying to pull my leg or something?” Mr. Dionyssiou said of the late-morning phone call asking if it would be all right to bring in Mr. Obama. “He said, ‘No, no, we’ll be there at 12 o’clock.’”

The President arrived at 12:15 and ordered a chili dog with onions, mustard, and cheese, as well as french fries and a bowl of chili.

“At first he wanted one hot dog, but when he ate the one he said, ‘No, I want another one,’” Mr. Dionyssiou said.

The President stood and talked with customers while he ate his hot dogs. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), who accompanied Mr. Obama to Rudy’s along with Miss Kaptur and Mr. Bell, introduced the President to customer Kelly Nelson and said, “This is Kelly Nelson, she may need a note to get back to work because she’s going to be late.”

The President also greeted two customers from Chrysler supplier Faurecia Interior Systems Inc., which makes parts for the Jeep Liberty and Dodge Nitro at Chrysler’s Toledo plant.

He asked the two men if the company was a Jeep supplier and they said yes. “Keep up the good work,” Mr. Obama responded.

After Mr. Obama left the hot dog spot for the assembly plant, Regina Weaks pulled a paper Rudy’s bag out of her red apron and unfolded it to show off the President’s signature. She said the President made a good choice in coming to the restaurant where she’s worked 30 years.

“They’re good people,” she said of Mr. Dionyssiou and his brother and Rudy’s co-owner Harry Dionyssiou. “They’re real hardworking people and they give back a lot. I’m glad he came here. It’s something I’ll never forget.”

President-Barack-Obama-Rudys-Hot-Dogs-Marcy-kaptaur-Harry

Mr. Obama ordered a chili dog, french fries, and a bowl of chili during the visit to Rudy’s as Mayor Mike Bell and U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur wait their turn. At right is Rudy’s co-owner Harry Dionyssiou.

The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
Enlarge | Buy This Image

During Mr. Obama’s speech about a half hour later to Chrysler workers inside the factory, he mentioned Rudy’s and Zinger’s, a nearby spot popular with Chrysler employees.

Zinger’s bartender Barb Deck watched the speech on television inside the bar and hoped she might get a chance to pour the President a drink. Zinger’s already had concocted a new special called the “Obama Burger.” Price: $6.95, with fries.

A Zinger’s visit wasn’t in the cards, though, as the Obama motorcade instead dropped in at Fred’s Pro Hardware on Stickney Avenue and Pearl Street after leaving the plant. It was there the President bought the two pairs of green-and-white garden gloves for his wife.

Matthew Wamsley, an associate at Fred’s Pro Hardware, said he directed President Obama to the store’s gardening glove section, where the President selected two $4.99 pairs for Mrs. Obama.

Mr. Wamsley, 40, grew up near the store, and said his parents still live in the neighborhood. He said he was “star struck” by the President’s visit.

“I called my mom right away. I think she hit the floor,” he said.

Scott Wells, 37, was running the register where Mr. Obama paid for the gloves. Before he rang up the President’s purchase, Mr. Wells said he asked if Mr. Obama was tax exempt.

“He said: ‘No, I pay my taxes,’” Mr. Wells said.

President-Barack-Obama-Freds-Pro-Hardware-Matthew-Wamsley-gardening-gloves

The President made a stop at Fred’s Pro Hardware on Stickney Avenue, where Matthew Wamsley helped him pick out a couple pairs of green-and-white gardening gloves for First Lady Michelle Obama.

The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
Enlarge | Buy This Image

Afterward, the President crossed the street, where a crowd of about 150 people had gathered spontaneously. They greeted him enthusiastically.

Next, Mr. Obama headed back to Toledo Express and left town.

Mr. Dionyssiou, who met Ronald Reagan in Malibu, Calif., while the eventual two-term president was governor of California, said the chance to host a sitting president was special.

“This is once in a lifetime. The President of the United States coming to your place. How many stores did he go to, how many restaurants? In all of Toledo, he came to Rudy’s. It’s an honor. No matter whether people like him or not, that’s the way it is. You’ve gotta have respect for him.”

Mr. Dionyssiou, who pointed out the photo of him and Mr. Reagan, said he’d have to find a spot on his office wall for a print of him, his brother, and the President.

Blade staff writers Nolan Rosenkrans, Sheena Harrison, Payton Willey, Larry Vellequette, and Traci Tillman contributed to this report.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at: tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.

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