Near the lone stoplight on Main Street, a for-sale sign hangs from a dusty window where a souvenir shop used to sell cufflinks, cowboy boots and denim shirts emblazoned “The Western White House.”
Another gift store across the street is shuttered too, though a sign says it will reopen elsewhere. And the biggest souvenir shop in Crawford is reporting a drop in sales.
The Washington professionals have their polls, their focus groups and their newspaper editorials. But Crawford, the 700-person town where President Bush’s ranch is located, has its trinket stores, and they have fallen on hard times, in what some say reflects the president’s sinking popularity over the war in Iraq and a daunting influx of anti-war protesters.
Norma Nelson Crow closed her Crawford Country Style store three months ago.
“I feel so strongly about the president that I wanted to continue to support him any way I could,” she said. “But I’m distressed about the poll numbers and think it was a combination of things: that and the protesters.”
After reporting nearly $813,000 in gross sales in 1999, Crawford’s souvenir shops and other retail businesses generated $1.03 million in 2000, the year Bush was first elected. Sales climbed steadily during Bush’s first term to $2.66 million in 2004.
But in 2005, sales had dropped to $2.3 million. They were down as much as 20 percent in each of the first two quarters of 2006. And while the third- and fourth-quarter figures are not yet available, all indications are that the slide continued.
All Hail Cindy Sheehan!
Crow suggested that the anti-war demonstrations that Cindy Sheehan started in Crawford in 2005 have led some tourists to stay away.
“When the president would be home, more people would come hoping to get a glimpse of him,” she said. “But with the frustrations caused by the protesters, it wasn’t as popular to come to Crawford and pick up trinkets.”