President Obama and the first family will travel to Martha's Vineyard on Sunday for a weeklong vacation. And business owners on the resort island off the coast of Massachusetts are primed and ready for his visit — and the extra money they hope it will bring.
If you're in the market for some clothing to commemorate the Obama family's summer vacation, Richard White would be happy to help. He runs Soft As A Grape, a souvenir shop in Edgartown, on the island's northeastern coast.
White's small shop is filled with T-shirts, sweatshirts and baseball caps. In his display window facing Dock Street, White has propped up cardboard cutouts of President Obama, Sen. John McCain, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin — all modeling his limited-edition line of Obama-themed resort wear.
"I've literally had hundreds and hundreds of people stopping, taking pictures of the window, and coming and purchasing our shirts," White said last week.
Hoping For An Obama Bounce
Retailers expect that the president's visit will draw more attention — and more tourists — to Martha's Vineyard. They hope his trip will buoy business and boost sales, which have been suffering during the economic downturn.
Rick Dwyer, a part-time employee of Soft As A Grape, was on the island when President Clinton and his family visited in the 1990s.
"It was very exciting," Dwyer said. "Every day you woke up and you knew that history was in the making. It was a very exciting time to be here. It's almost indescribable."
Across Martha's Vineyard, there is an informal competition among business owners: Who can come up with the most creative souvenir — or the cutest kitsch?
Menus Reflect Obama Mania
Carol McManus owns a cafe called Espresso Love on Edgartown's Main Street. It's a place to get a cup of coffee, a newspaper — and, for a limited time, the "Obama Muffin," made of bananas, coconut, macadamia nuts and raspberries. The tropical ingredients are a tribute to the president's Hawaiian roots, McManus says.
When it comes to baking "presidential" muffins, McManus is an old hand. She made one for Clinton that included cream cheese, raspberries and blueberries.
Up the street from her cafe is a Mexican restaurant called Sharky's Cantina, where two new specials recently appeared: the "Barack-o-Taco" and the "Obama-rita."
At the Offshore Ale brewpub in Oak Bluffs, brewmaster Phil McAndrews and owner Neil Atkins plan to unveil a new beer Saturday inspired by Obama's visit. "Ale to the Chief" is an American pale ale, they say, made from all-American ingredients.
At Good Dog Goods, on Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs, Kerry Scott can't wait to cater to another summer White House visitor: Bo, the first family's Portuguese water dog.
Scott has planned a parade in Bo's honor, and she's selling shirts and hats with a picture of the puppy. She has also begun to compile a visitors' guide to the island for dogs. She wants Bo to be its first beneficiary.
The Start Of A Relationship?
The island's restaurateurs and retailers want tourists to indulge in as many muffins and microbrews as they can, to sport souvenir shirts and collectible caps, and to share in the excitement of the first family's visit.
And, of course, there is also the hope that the vacationer in chief could become a customer. McAndrews has his fingers crossed.
"That would be great," he said. "He just had his beer summit, so we'll see. Plus, we're a great family restaurant. We can tuck 'em into a booth. No one will even know he's here."
The odds may be against McAndrews. According to the White House, the president has not planned any public appearances next week. But the locals hope that a draw like Ale to the Chief will prove impossible to resist.