Zac VanderLey – Staff Writer
Stephen Radke wipes sweat from his brow after pulling off his Keep America Great cap. He scratches at his tattoo on his left forearm; bellows out a long yawn; removes his worn out, white vans; turns off his air pods; and plops down on his air mattress in the back room of the store at 3:30am. Another hard day’s work at the Trump Shop.
The Trump Shop franchise currently has fifty-three stores around the country. The latest appeared next to Taco John’s in Sioux Center on September 23. Residents driving down the main street are greeted by an American flag inflatable tube man waving in the wind and a live-sized picture of President Donald J. Trump on the door.
Radke, the young owner of the shop, moved to Sioux Center from Winona, Minnesota. He watches political demographics, and Sioux Center was high on his priority list due to the amount of republican voters in the area.
Upon opening the door plastered with Trump’s likeness, the prospective customer is greeted by a variety of similarly themed products. A Trump bear is sitting on the counter peeking out from his cramped living arrangement. Above the bear is a Rambo Donald Trump poster. Trump t-shirts, flags, and hats line the walls. A black box fan circulates the air of America. It smells like patriotic heaven: a little booze and body odor mixed with a faint burnt pizza aroma. The most popular items, according to Radke, are the playing cards, flat stickers, and gold signs. Those sell out in a matter of days.
“Business is going well,” Radke said. “I stayed up all night [on September 29th] setting up the store and restocking. From Wednesday to Saturday I get more and more people.”
The Trump Shop’s Facebook page has become quite polarizing. The page’s profile picture is Trump’s head photoshopped onto the body of a red-and-blue-clad muscular superhero, and the posts feature various Trump flags and shirts for sale. Under those posts people have been commenting anti-Trump gifs, cursing out Trump supporters, and even lambasting the city of Sioux Center for allowing such a store to exist.
“It makes me laugh because it generates publicity.” Radke said, “I had some people from Le Mars come because of all the hate on Facebook,”
“I thought it would be too extreme for Sioux County, but maybe I don’t know Sioux County like I thought,”
-Laremy De Vries
He also has had customers from Nebraska, South Dakota, and Des Moines, Iowa.
While Radke does not require facemasks and does not currently wear one himself, his Trump facemasks and neck gaiters have consistently sold out. The store is rarely empty of people. In the mornings random customers show up: some on lunch breaks and others who have come from afar. The afternoons bring older couples and, later at night, he gets younger customers. Some, he claims, are Dordt students.
“Wednesday is the busiest because there are church things at night and afterwards my shop is swarming with people. I’m usually open past 10,” Radke said.
The Trump Shop is here to stay, at least until January 21st. As long as business is booming, then there’s no reason for Radke to move on. The upcoming presidential election serves to draw interest in politics and his wares.
“Even if Trump doesn’t win—but he will—I believe I’ll have customers,” Radke said.
There have been murmurings in the Dordt community surrounding the new store. Some love it, some hate it, and others are more confused.
“I think it’s just weird,” said Adjunct Professor Laremy De Vries. “I was expecting more normal stuff, and I’m just kind of shocked.”
De Vries compared it to a firework stand with its small room and bombastic material. “I thought it would be too extreme for Sioux County, but maybe I don’t know Sioux County like I thought.”
Radke has met resistance in the past for his work. Some of his stories are not fit for a family- friendly newspaper. He said he’s had guns pointed at his head, his life has been threatened, and he is no stranger to name-calling.
“My favorite is when people call me a Nazi.” Radke said, “I have blonde hair, blue eyes, and run a Trump shop, so I become a Nazi to people.”
Sioux Center, however, has mostly welcomed Radke with open arms.
“I know this is a religious community,” Radke said. “It helps my business, and people are super nice. The worst thing that has happened was some girls came in, talked about supporting Biden, and ran out.”
In the Trump Shop, two men in orange working vests and steel-toed boots buy a Trump Train t-shirt along with a golden Trump $100 bill. Two high school girls in jeans and blue sport jackets walk in timidly. Radke welcomes them like any other customer.
“I don’t care what color, gender, race, religion, or ethnicity you are. I’ll sell to anyone,” claimed Radke.
He accepts card or cash, but to him, cash is king.