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New Obama Souvenir Store Opens In D.C.

obamastore 001.jpg The Treasury Department and the White House were on one side of 15th Street. But the tourists stopping to take photos were aiming their lenses at a new presidential souvenir shop on the other side.

Hoping to capitalize on Obama-mania, the store at the intersection of 15th St. and New York Ave NW opened Monday, featuring two life-size cutouts of President-elect Barack Obama and a mockup of the Oval office, complete with American flag. Oh, yeah, the store also sells hundreds of hats, T-shirts, pens, coffee mugs, playing cards, etc...
obamastore 002.jpg

Though the shop calls itself an official store for the inaugural, the venture is a private enterprise that has no affiliation with the Obama transition team. It is owned by Jim Warlick, who has been selling presidential memorabilia for nearly 30 years, since he stood on Third Street selling buttons for Ronald Reagan's inaugural in 1980.

Warlick owns the Political Americana souvenir shop at 14th Street and Pennsylvania Ave. NW. He said the store on 15th Street is one of five new shops he is planning to open, including spots at Union Station, Tysons Corner Mall, White Flint Mall and another Pennsylvania Ave. location.

"I've never seen anything like it," he said of the demand for Obama memorabilia.

For now, most of the stuff for sale is Obama-related, but that will change after he takes office and the demand tapers off, Warlick said. The goal is to try to offer equal amounts of Democratic and Republican gear, and he plans to have a section devoted to books and signed documents.
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But people are scooping up everything. The other day, Warlick and his staff were unpacking Obama hot sauce and man quickly bought five bottles. Warlick knows how to turn a profit--he bought 500 copies of the Washington Post's Nov. 5 inaugural special edition the day after Obama won the general election. They cost him $2 apiece, but he is re-selling them for $20, complete with a protective sheath.

"We're seeing the average sale is four to five times the normal sale purchase," Warlick said. "People are buying stuff for family. It's like, 'When you're in D.C., get me something about Obama.'"

By David A Nakamura  |  December 2, 2008; 10:56 AM ET  | Category:  Souvenirs
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