Charlotte businesses’ reactions to DNC mixed

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Handmade Barack Obama dolls are for sale at the Carolina Fest street festival during preparations for the Democratic National Convention (DNC) on September 3, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK

Visitors to this week’s Democratic National Convention are expected to spend a whopping $200 million in Charlotte, filling hotel rooms and providing a captive audience for sellers hawking everything from patriotic baked goods to political kitsch to authentic Carolina barbecue.

Some local store owners took a gamble to stock up for the convention months in advance, and are reaping the rewards this week, the Charlotte Observer reports. But not all businesses are feeling the love.

Jewelry store owner Berhan Nebioglu told the the newspaper she spent nearly $1,000 stocking up on extra merchandise in hopes of a DNC boon, only to learn nearby convention security was so tight that passers-by would have to ask for her store by name, cutting off much-needed foot traffic.

“I am so devastated,” Nebioglu said. “Thirty-five thousand people, and they cannot get in here to buy a simple … piece of jewelry. I mean, how sad is that?”

But other vendors who toughed out a long selection process in order to sell inside the convention zone told the Huffington Post sales have been strong.

The weather held out just long enough for Dan Huntley to sell $10,000 worth of Carolina barbecue sandwiches from his “Dan the Pig Man” food truck — his best day ever — and a nearby T-shirt vendor said sales were stronger than any of his other recent events, the website said.

Still other entrepreneurs say they already knew their big boost from the DNC wouldn’t be from this week’s sales. Instead, they hope referrals from impressed guests and their spot on the convention’s list of festival vendors will bring in new business leads long after the dems have skipped town.

“It is a tough industry for us to compete in, and I think it kind of opens the way or opens for door for others to be a part,” business owner Rhonda Caldwell told Raleigh TV station WRAL, speaking about how she appreciated the DNC’s efforts to include women- and minority-owned businesses. Her event-planning company, The Main Event, is hosting seven parties during the convention.

And some are just happy to be part of the show.

“We are bringing in the country to the city,” local florist Shelly St. Laurent told the Charlotte Observer, as she tucked sunflowers into a golden vase headed for a DNC event at a nearby hotel. “Plus, it will be fun for a luncheon.”

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