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The Trump Store is the stage for one story about civility and neighborly respect

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

At the solitary stoplight in Boones Mill, Va., along Route 220, sits the Trump Store, a conspicuous fixture established right before the 2020 presidential election. Craig Wright with Radio IQ recently paid a visit, and he uncovered a story that's a snapshot of America's political landscape.

CRAIG WRIGHT, BYLINE: The Trump Store, housed in an old church building, is hard to miss when you drive past. Flags, giant Trump cutouts and an RV with the former president flashing his signature thumbs up emblazoned on the side, all there to get your attention, plus dozens of yard signs, including one which reads...

WHITEY TAYLOR: If you're not for Trump, you are trespassing.

WRIGHT: This Trump Store is the creation of Whitey Taylor. There are other stores across the country with the same name inspired by the former president. But Taylor, a known promoter in the region, likes to boast...

TAYLOR: Number one destination on the East Coast and soon to be in the world.

WRIGHT: It was while in Florida for the Daytona 500 that Taylor announced to his son that he was going to help Trump.

TAYLOR: And he said, so how are you go to help him? I said, well, the girl that I've been buying the T-shirts from, I'm going to call her and order 1,000. He says oh, Dad, don't be so crazy. He said, just get 100. I said, go big or go home, boy.

WRIGHT: He and his son sold them all from the trunk of their car at a Trump rally. And he says that was the catalyst that led to the Trump Store, which features anything and everything Trump.

TAYLOR: Mugs are really popular. I'm out of the red one right now. This is the one I was telling you about - the mug shot. We're about out of those again.

WRIGHT: It's a mug shot on a mug.

TAYLOR: Yes. And we've sold thousands of them.

WRIGHT: Do people, when they come in, are they just simply wanting to shop or does the topic ever turn to politics?

TAYLOR: Always to politics. They're looking for kindred hearts.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRAFFIC)

WRIGHT: The lawn in front of the store is full of signs, some with traditional takes on campaign slogans like Farmers for Trump. Others dip into unsubstantiated claims the former president himself promotes, like calling his prosecutions a witch hunt. When the subject is Trump, not everyone is on Taylor's bandwagon.

TAYLOR: When we opened up here, my neighbor right over there - she's a lawyer - said, Whitey, what are you going to be selling over here? I said Trump souvenirs. She said, you reckon people will buy that junk?

WRIGHT: It was a surprise when Taylor then insisted I pay that neighbor a visit.

I am speaking with...

SHIRLEY B JAMISON: Shirley B. Jamison, an attorney - I was the only attorney here in Boones Mill for years. I practiced here about - well, over 40 years. I started in 1980.

WRIGHT: Politically, Jamison and Taylor are on opposite ends of the spectrum.

JAMISON: I'm a very strong Democrat. I wasn't necessarily a strong Democrat until Roe v. Wade was overturned. And they say most voters only have one issue. I thought, oh, I'm broader than that. But unfortunately, I've turned out not to be broader and better than that.

WRIGHT: In spite of their opposing political viewpoints, Taylor and Jamison carry on with civility and a respect for each other's beliefs.

JAMISON: Not only do we coexist peacefully, but we have interworked together on a few things. So let's say it's never boring. How about that? They are congenial neighbors. We enjoy their conviviality. It's just that we don't believe anything the same at all (laughter).

WRIGHT: Jamison recalls when the Trump Store opened, people in town were divided.

JAMISON: There were several members who were probably Democrats and certainly citizens of Boones Mill who did not welcome the Trump Store being here. And then there were other folks who thought it was a thrilling statement of speech independence that he could be right here on 220 highway.

WRIGHT: And many people, Jamison says, see her relationship with Taylor as a curious arrangement.

JAMISON: They want to know about our aggression toward each other, what have you. But we don't have that. We don't have any acrimony. We coexist peacefully.

WRIGHT: And as for Whitey Taylor's store...

TAYLOR: People say, when are you going to close up? I said, when God tells me to. But he hasn't told me to close up yet.

WRIGHT: In a politically divided nation, this intersection on Route 220 serves as a hopeful reminder that even those with opposing views can still get along. For NPR News, I'm Craig Wright in Boones Mill, Va. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Craig Wright
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Susanna Capelouto
[Copyright 2024 NPR]