RNC -- good for some businesses, but not allby Martin Moylan, Minnesota Public Radio
As the Republican National Convention draws near, many Twin Cities business are sizing up how much of a sales kick they may get out of the convention this September. But being close to the convention is no guarantee of a boost in sales.
St. Paul, Minn. — Cossetta's Italian Market & Pizzeria is within a block of the Xcel Energy Center, where the Republican convention will be held.
Everyone loves Cossetta's, it seems. The restaurant's walls are covered with autographed photos of Frank Sinatra and other celebrities complimenting Cossetta's on its cuisine.
But manager Ray Vanyo doesn't expect the convention will give Cossetta's much of a boost. Vanyo figures convention-goers will likely hit ritzier restaurants.
"We are a little bit more laid back. We're not as upscale as some of the other restaurants," said Vanyo. "And people that are going to a convention are generally going to go to those types of places, because they are bringing people out to dinner."
In other words, Cossetta's would be better off with some hockey games or concerts at the Xcel Energy Center, instead of a political convention. Your political powerbrokers, corporate bigwigs and media jackals probably want more than pizza and beer.
It's his regular customers that Vanyo is worried about. Vanyo figures he could face traffic restrictions that keep customers from reaching him, by car at least.
"How the police and Secret Service are going to be restricting that traffic getting in here we do not know yet," said Vanyo. "And we probably won't know until a month beforehand. They're going to keep us all on limited information until we really need to know."
City officials said there will be vehicle restrictions close to the Xcel Energy Center. But pedestrians will be allowed in the vicinity of the facility.
Across the street from Cosetta's, at Wescott Station Antiques, there's some optimism about the convention.
Manager Kurt Wescott believes convention delegates, reporters and others with time to kill might want to browse the antique shops in the neighborhood, and actually buy some things.
"Stained glass windows and other smaller items that they can take home with them," he said.
Maybe there will be a good number of antique collectors among the convention attendees. Maybe not. But the folks attending the convention are going to need transportation while they're in town. And many of them will want to ride in style, no doubt.
Like in a 20-passenger Hummer, perhaps?
James Dickey, owner of Boss Limo in Brooklyn Park, expects the convention will be good for his business.
With the Twin Cites flooded with a lot of free-spending bigwigs, Dickey believes he'll find many customers for his chauffeured limos, stretch SUVs and other luxury cars.
They usually rent for $70 to $200 an hour. But during the convention, Dickey expects rates could stand a hike of 10 percent or so.
"There will be lobbyists there, and corporate people," he said. "It's a big target on the calendar for the politicians and the people who hope to affect the politicians. It's a great opportunity for us."
And the convention is a great opportunity, too, for a Minneapolis business whose owner despises President Bush.
"We think he's been a disaster for the country. But ironically, he's been good for our business," said Scott Cramer, owner of Northern Sun Merchandising.
It's a distinctly left-of-center operation, selling buttons, bumper stickers, T-shirts and other paraphernalia that reflect the sentiments, and sense of humor, of unabashed liberals.
"Businesses like us have done really well with George," Cramer said. "He's motivated a lot of people to want to oppose him. He's united a lot of people. He's been the uniter. He's united the majority of American citizens against him."
In conjunction with a number of groups that'll be protesting at the convention, Cramer is working on official protest shirts for the convention.
Cramer expects to find thousands of customers among the protesters heading for the Twin Cities. And maybe he'll make some sales to convention delegates, too. Cramer says a lot of the messages on his merchandise are pretty mainstream.
"'Renewable energy is American security.' How can you argue with that?" he said. "'Well-behaved women seldom make history.' It's a no-brainer. There's a lot of stuff they would actually agree with, if they're not totally offended by the hard core anti-Bush materials."
And if delegates do make it to Cramer's Lake St. shop, they'll get a 20 percent delegate discount.
- Morning Edition, 05/07/2008, 7:50 a.m.