Obama Visits Boost Businesses

Associated Press + More

The Obamas not only popularize entrees but have the ability to boost sales across the country on their vacation stays, from Martha's Vineyard to Hawaii.

The family has stopped in Bunch of Grapes bookstore in Vineyard Haven, Mass., for the past two summers, purchasing books such as the classic "To Kill a Mockingbird" to the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Tinkers."

"The days following anytime he visits, we have a huge increase in sales," owner Dawn Braasch said. "I'm not sure why it is, but it is. I don't know if people think he will come back and they will get a glimpse."

The store, carrying more than 50,000 books, has also hosted Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, for their book signings.

During Christmas breaks in Hawaii, the Obamas have collectively stopped in Island Snow at least a half dozen times for shave ice. The president was also photographed wearing an Island Snow T-shirt on the beach.

Store president James Kodama said Obama's stay in the little town of Kailua has promoted awareness of the entire beach community. It's also increased foot traffic for his shop that sells beach and surf apparel.

The family always stops to take pictures with the staff and once invited some of the employees to their send-off at Hickam Air Force Base, he said.

"I know people come to our store because he was here," Kodama said. "People are kind of wondering if he's stopped by and they are chancing it."

But more than curiosity lures customers in. Andrea Morales, associate professor of marketing at Arizona State University's W.P. Carey School of Business, said an implicit recommendation from a public figure is more effective than an endorsement from a paid celebrity spokesperson.

"Just being photographed and saying 'this is good' carries a lot of weight and, in fact, carries more weight because they think 'you're not getting paid to say that you just like this place,'" she said. "That type of marketing, even though it's not mainstream or not the typical marketing, has become more effective."

Morales said consumers may ask where Obama sat because of a positive consumer contagion, or they believe "there's some trace of him left there" that they want to experience themselves.

Ben's Chili Bowl in Washington's popular U Street corridor still draws patrons asking what Obama ate and where he sat when the then-president-elect visited the restaurant before his inauguration in January 2009.

"It's been tremendous, the response, since he's been here, and it really continues to this day," co-owner Nizam Ali said.

He said business from the first family has a broader impact on the community.

"It's been tremendous for every local business he has patronized and very helpful to the D.C. community as well," he said. "It did kind of symbolize that he and his family would be Washingtonians and enjoy the city as residents. This is his community now."

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