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Ahead of President Donald J. Trump’s visit to Greenville today, vendors moved into Wilson and set up shop selling Trump memorabilia
Choosing vacant lots or unoccupied business buildings, the vendors set up tents or opened trailers full of merchandise to capitalize on the fervor of a visit by the United States’ 45th president.
Glenn Wilcoxson of Hudson, Florida, pulled into the vacant parking lot in front of the old Executive Cleaners building at the corner of Tarboro Street and Glendale Drive.
“We have been doing this since 2016 when he came down the escalator,” Wilcoxson said, referring to the day the real estate mogul turned reality star announced he would be running for president at Trump Tower in New York.
Wilcoxson sells a variety of Trump merchandise.
“We have everything from flags to bobbleheads to hats to shot glasses to keychains to coins to can Koozies to bands, finger puppets, just a plethora of products,” Wilcoxson said.
Wilcoxson arrived Monday morning with his family in an RV pulling a trailer loaded with the goods. He chose Wilson because it was near Greenville, where Trump will hold a Keep America Great rally at East Carolina University’s Williams Arena.
“A lot of times you do it on the outskirts because the people are going to come from everywhere,” Wilcoxson said. “The areas like Wilson, they don’t get this kind of thing every day. The don’t have the opportunity to support the president with memorabilia, hats and flags and banners and things like that. There is no retail store here in Wilson that is likely to sell any of it.”
Among the most popular items are the red Make America Great Again baseball caps, followed by Trump 2020 flags and Trump 2020 T-shirts.
“Everything sells. Everything,” Wilcoxson said. “You put Trump 2020 on it, it sells.”
Wilcoxson said a lot of people have stopped by to talk and to buy the merchandise.
“They want to know if we are really Republicans or not,” Wilcoxson said. “We support our president 100%. This is capitalism in its finest and who says that capitalism is great? The president of the United States.”
Some merchandise, like “Communist News Network” T-shirts, takes aim at Trump critics or skewers political opponents.
“We sell things that the campaign can’t sell,” Wilcoxson said.“We have ones that say ‘Republicans, working like crazy to support the lazy.’ We have some controversial shirts like ‘Suck It, Liberal’ with a big pacifier on it. That’s a real good seller.”
Wilcoxson said he’s followed the presidential rallies to 46 states selling this stuff and occasionally his wares aren’t welcome.
“We get into some areas that don’t respond real well and we just kind of move along to a different areas,” Wilcoxson said.
Another vendor, Cathy Graham of Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, set up a tent Thursday on Raleigh Road Parkway at the corner of Adkins Place to sell hats and T-shirts.
A pair of protesters set up a few feet from her tent Saturday.
“They had signs that said ‘Dump Trump’ and ‘Honk to Close Camps,’” Graham recalled. “They only lasted a couple of hours. It’s hot outside.”
Graham said motorists along the highway will frequently honk their horns and gesture. Many give her the thumbs-up sign and others flip her the bird.
“It’s all good,” said Graham. “I am a Trump supporter, but I am not a Republican. I voted for Obama the first time.”
Graham said the biggest reason for selling the merchandise is the money.
“I have made money and I love to travel,” Graham said. “It’s the best of both.”
Another reason is to spread the president’s message.
“We go to the towns surrounding it; a lot of people don’t even know there is a rally,” Graham said.
The people in Wilson have been polite, generally.
“There is a lot of support in Wilson,” Graham said. “I had a lot of people say ‘Thank you for showing support for Trump.’”
Wilcoxson and Graham will both zero in on Greenville today for the president’s rally, but they won’t be able to get too close.. Every one of the president’s campaign venues is private.
“The day of the event, we will start working at 4 o’clock in the morning, but once the Trump Store gets there, everything changes,” Wilcoxson said.
Through the 2016 campaign, Wilcoxson said the vendors “made it happen.”
“We stumped for Trump. We traveled all over the United States and then the Trump Store got involved,” Wilconxson said. “They are the ones that sell all the MAGA hats and sell them. They put a stop to all the other vendors that traveled and worked so hard the last campaign cycle to come on the property, set our booths and sell our merchandise. We are just making a living feeding our families.”
Wilcoxson said there will be hundreds of vendors at or near the rally site trying to make a buck.
“There have been fights in the parking lot with the Trump Store,” Wilcoxson said. “Sometimes it’s brutal. One guy got his head rammed into a truck. People think they are Secret Service, but they are not even marked as Secret Service. It’s so ridiculous.”
Still, Wilcoxson said he wouldn’t have left his job as a screenprinter in 2016 if vendors couldn’t support themselves selling the Trump items.
“We wouldn’t do this since 2016 unless there was money being made,” Wilcoxson said. “We are having an absolute blast going all over the United States.”