The entrepreneurs

 

A crowd stood at the corner of Blake Street and the 16th Street Mall on Monday, flanking a pushcart overflowing with t-shirts. A painfully cheery young man named Toby wore one that was blazoned with the Qdoba Mexican Grill cartoon cactus. On the front it said “Burritos for Obama.” Other t-shirts offered up quesadillas and nachos to the candidate instead.

“So,” we asked, “why are you a burrito?”

“A burrito is just kinda like all the good stuff wrapped in one, like Obama,” Toby, presumably a Qdoba employee, said. Not sarcastically. “It’s just something fun, funky and fresh.” (Each entrée, it turns out, refers to a personality type. If you have a lot of time on your hands and want to find out your own “q-dentity,” you too can divine your fate in a pile of refried beans.)

In exchange for a video promo in which they had to profess their love for Obama while holding up a t-shirt, passersby got to keep a shirt. Toby admitted that the Qdoba Restaurant Corporation will be selling slightly different t-shirts at the Republican Convention.

Further down the road, a sometime florist named Michelle was demonstrating the mobile hips of the Obama Action Figure. (“An action figure we can believe in,” said the box.) “Some people are buying them for their kids, some people are keeping them in the box for collector’s items,” she said, flexing one of Obama’s elbows. The figure retails for $15. McCain—“A Call to Action Figure”—exists as well, “but we’re not promoting it,” Michelle whispered conspiratorially.

Near the south end of the mall, hipster t-shirts and baby onesies hung from the roof of the Barackstar08.com booth. In February, Zoe Montalbano of Boulder was so inspired by Obama and his message that she designed a black and silver “Barack Star” tee and took the first 25 she printed to an Obama event, where fellow volunteers snatched them up. And, she explains, the demand for more was the impetus behind additional designs, such as the “Barack and Roll” tank top. One of the few vendors along the mall that didn’t appear to swing both ways, Zoe and her husband, Mark, donate 10 percent of the Barack Star proceeds to the campaign. To date, that’s added up to about $1,000.

By this time we were hot and thirsty. Up ahead, lay the Sno-ball Shack, an oasis in the median. This vendor is a permanent Denver fixture, not part of the ephemeral convention entourage. While pondering the gazillion flavors, we noticed a big sticker on the window: “Obama Ya Mama.” This mixture of passionfruit and guava (a rip-off of Bahama Mama) is a top seller, according to employee Elliot Sawyer, whose lips were stained orange. “I just get in there and mix them all,” he said.

Despite being “just a local boy from Denver,” Michael Herold’s merchandising ploy stood out with the best of the corporate behemoths. His brother-in-law’s truck sat on corner of the 16th Street Mall, covered with patriotic bunting. In the back stood a life-size cardboard cut-out of Obama encased in a giant plastic bottle.

“I just dreamed it up one day hiking,” Herold said. “I thought, what could I do that was wholesome, something just nice.” What he did was fill dozens of regular-sized plastic bottles with Obama buttons, bracelets, stickers, sunglasses, party horns and flags. Sales, he said, have been pretty good, even at $15 a pop.

Among the more enterprising vendors were Nathan Moore and Sanjay Bapat, creators of the Gay Republican Hypocrites playing card deck. The pair stood at the so-called “perimeter” of the Pepsi Center, hawking their wares. The cards feature "politicians who were anti-gay and got caught in homosexual situations," Sanjay says. Westerners Ted Haggard and Idaho senator Larry Craig were among those pictured.

Moore and Bapat – straight supporters of gay rights who graduated from the University of Texas this spring – came up with the idea while drinking, and followed through with it partly because they thought it “might help them meet chicks.” They sold enough cards to buy plane tickets to Denver but have not yet sold enough to pay their way home. Convention officials have refused to give them credentials to get into the Pepsi Center.

"We don't think the Democratic Party is friendly to small business," says Sanjay. Pro-business Democrats can prove them wrong.

High Country News Classifieds
  • CARBON RANCH PLANNER
    The Quivira Coalition (www.quiviracoaltion.org) is a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic, and social health through education,...
  • EDUCATION AND OUTREACH DIRECTOR
    Education and Outreach Program Director The Quivira Coalition (www.quiviracoaltion.org) is a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic,...
  • WESTERN DIVISION DIRECTOR OF FIELD PROGRAMS
    DEADLINE TO APPLY: October 29, 2021 LOCATION FLEXIBLE (WESTERN HUB CITY PREFERRED) Overview The Land Trust Alliance is the voice of the land trust community....
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Communications and Outreach Associate Position Opening: www.westernlaw.org/communications-outreach-associate ************************************************* Location: Western U.S., ideally in one of WELC's existing office locations (Santa Fe or Taos, NM, Helena,...
  • FREELANCE GRAPHIC DESIGNER & PROJECT COORDINATOR (REMOTE)
    High Country News (HCN) is seeking a contract Graphic Designer & Project Coordinator to design promotional, marketing and fund-raising assets and campaigns, and project-manage them...
  • FILM AND DIGITAL MEDIA: ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF INDIGENOUS MEDIA, CULTURAL SOVEREIGNTY AND DECOLONIZATION (INITIAL REVIEW 12.1.21)
    Film and Digital Media: Assistant Professor of Indigenous Media, Cultural Sovereignty and Decolonization (Initial Review 12.1.21) Position overview Position title: Assistant Professor - tenure-track Salary...
  • REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST
    To learn more about this position and to apply please go to the following URL.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    "More Data, Less Digging" Find groundwater and reduce excavation costs!
  • RARE CHIRICAHUA RIPARIAN LAND FOR SALE
    40 acres: 110 miles from Tucson: native trees, grasses: birder's heaven::dark sky/ borders state lease & National forest/5100 ft/13-16 per annum rain
  • CENTRAL PARK CULTURAL RESOURCE SPECIALIST
    Agency: Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Salary Range: $5,203 - $7,996 Position Title: Central Park Cultural Resource Specialist Do you have a background in Archaeology...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    Come live and work in one of the most beautiful places in the world! As our Staff Attorney you will play a key role in...
  • ARIZONA GRAZING CLEARINGHOUSE
    Dedicated to preventing the ecological degradation caused by livestock grazing on Arizona's public lands, and exposing the government subsidies that support it.
  • OPERATIONS MANAGER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo (friendsoftheinyo.org) is seeking a new Operations Manager. The Operations Manager position is a full-time permanent position that reports directly...
  • WATER RIGHTS BUREAU CHIEF
    Water Rights Bureau Chief, State of Montana, DNRC, Water Resources Division, Helena, MT Working to support and implement the Department's mission to help ensure that...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Amargosa Conservancy (AC), a conservation nonprofit dedicated to standing up for water and biodiversity in the Death Valley region, seeks an executive director to...
  • DEVELOPMENT & OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Southeast Alaska Conservation Council is hiring! Who We Are: The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) is a small grassroots nonprofit based out of Juneau, Alaska,...
  • DESERT LANDS ORGANIZER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo seeks a Desert Lands Organizer to assist with existing campaigns that will defend lands in the California desert, with...
  • IDAHO CONSERVATION LEAGUE
    Want to help preserve Idaho's land, water, and air for future generations? Idaho Conservation League currently has 3 open positions. We are looking for a...
  • LUNATEC ODOR-FREE DISHCLOTHS
    are a must try. They stay odor-free, dry fast, are durable and don't require machine washing. Try today.
  • EVENTS AND ANNUAL FUND COORDINATOR
    The Events and Annual Fund Coordinator is responsible for managing and coordinating the Henry's Fork Foundation's fundraising events for growing the membership base, renewing and...