Gov. Sarah Palin’s legions of supporters are proud of her bid to be the next vice president of the United States, and they want to show it.
Several retailers on the central Kenai Peninsula want to help them make that message clear, so they’re stocking up on a type of merchandise they’ve never carried before: political endorsements.
T-shirts, buttons and even candy endorsing the Palin-John McCain bid for the White House are being sold in stores in the area.
“They’re actually doing very well,” said Camberly Jackson, assistant manager of Thompson Log Gift and Jewelry in Soldotna. “People are coming in and buying them and sending them out of town to family.”
The store carries four styles of Palin T-shirts: one that says, “Our Mama Beats Your Obama,” another that says, “McCain-Palin, Alaska’s Ticket,” a shirt with Palin’s quote about hockey moms, pit bulls and lipstick, and another saying Alaska is the coldest state with the hottest governor.
Jackson said the store got its first shipment of shirts in September and has had to reorder more — 24 of each style of shirt — two times.
“They sell very well,” she said.
Thompson Log Gift and Jewelry carries a wide variety of Alaska-related shirts and merchandize, but the Sarah stuff is a first, in that it endorses a political candidate.
“That would not be something we would probably advertise, but, you know, because the governor is such a big thing for the state,” Jackson said. “They all seem to do well, just anything that says ‘Palin’ on it, pretty much.”
Jackson said the store will continue to sell the shirts as long as there’s demand for them.
“We’ll see how she does in the election. It just depends, I guess,” she said.
Sweeney’s in Soldotna has Palin shirts, buttons and candy for sale.
“We got the T-shirts in the middle of September. We got some and we’ve reordered, so I would say they’re doing OK, especially the dark colors,” said owner Mike Sweeney.
Sweeney said he promotes voting, but not usually a specific candidate. Unless you count a window display he had in the early 1990s, promoting himself as a candidate for the Legislature. That was a spoof, however, with him running on a platform of benefits for seniors and tax breaks for clothiers.
The governor is another exception.
“Palin, with her being the governor of Alaska and there’s a lot of interest in her, so I thought, why not?” Sweeney said.
Thompson Log Gift and Sweeney’s order their shirts from Alaska Serigraphics in Anchorage. David Powers, owner, said the company created the shirts to supply retailers, and also sells them over the counter in Anchorage.
“In the first three weeks, four weeks, it was crazy,” he said. “We couldn’t do our own business because we were selling so many over-the-counter Sarah retail shirts. It was terrible, but terrible in the good way.”
He estimated they sold 1,000 shirts over the counter in the first two weeks the shirts were available after Palin was named McCain’s running mate.
“We had one of our best months of the year when it should have been one of our slowest months,” he said.
The company sends the shirts all over the country and world. Sales have slowed somewhat as “Sarah has become kind of old news up here,” he said, but they’re still popular.
“It’s such a novelty, and it’s one moment in Alaska’s history, so I think it’s pretty neat,” Powers said.
Alaska Serigraphics has capitalized on other notable Alaska events, as well. They’ve created shirts commemorating Mount Augustine’s eruption — “Kick ash” — and shirts about Binky the polar bear attacking people at the Anchorage Zoo. They’ve also done shirts about the Exxon oil spill and donated the money from sales to the Cordova fishermen’s fund, and donated money from sales of Sept. 11 shirts to the Red Cross.
“For Sarah, we’re not donating it to Sarah,” Powers said.
Alaska Serigraphics also makes shirts promoting Democratic candidate Barack Obama — “Barack the Vote” — and a shirt that says “WASP” in blue glitter — Women Against Sarah Palin.
Those haven’t been as popular, however.
On Monday, Harold Cockroft, of Soldotna, walked out of Trustworthy Hardware in Soldotna wearing a blue “Our Mama Beats Your Obama” shirt. He said his wife, Ida, told him to get Sarah shirts, which he bought at Homestead Jewelers and Gifts in Soldotna.
“I like Sarah, absolutely. Don’t you?” Cockroft said.
He’s proud to display his support for the governor and bristles at the opposition she’s received in the media.
“People are trying to make her out to be something she’s not,” he said.
He said he’s received nothing but positive comments when he’s worn his shirt.
“Nobody hit me or anything yet,” he said. “They better not, or I’ll get Sarah on their butt.”