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19 Jan 2019 23:19
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  •   Home > News > International

    Souvenir seller Roger Sewani profits from his proximity to the President at Trump Tower

    Roger Sewani concedes not everyone likes Donald Trump, but the President's election win has been "absolutely brilliant" for business at his store in Trump Tower, where foreign tourists clamour for Trump-themed souvenirs to take home.

    Roger Sewani moved from Mumbai to New York City 35 years ago to chase the American dream.

    Things seem to have gone well — he now owns 25 newsagent shops and stalls.

    But one in Manhattan is more profitable than all the others, a tiny outlet tucked away near the toilets in the base of Trump Tower.

    In this store, many magazines and newspapers are out.

    And a wide variety of "affordable" Trump-themed souvenirs are in — playing cards, chocolate bars, key rings, hats, dolls and even Christmas baubles.

    "They are so popular; it's most of what we sell now," Mr Sewani said.

    "Donald Trump's election has been absolutely brilliant for business."

    Not all stores are made equal

    The store has a constant stream of customers with foreign accents. It's certainly more popular than the more expensive official Trump campaign stall nearby.

    The shoppers seem to be mostly curious tourists stopping in on their way back from the bathroom, rather than diehard Trump loyalists who have made a special pilgrimage.

    "Not everyone likes Trump," Mr Sewani conceded. But they still might buy a Melania mug or a MAGA [Make America Great Again] hat to take home.

    "Trump Tower is the number one place to buy."

    Indeed, his efforts to sell Trump-themed merchandise in his other New York stores apparently haven't gone down particularly well.

    Customers objected and threatened boycotts when they came in to pick up a paper. A couple of building managers weren't happy either.

    So, his two dozen other shops only stock a more standard range of products — lottery tickets, lollies, I love NY T-shirts, carry bags, miniature yellow cabs and Statue of Liberty key rings.

    Although Mr Sewani claimed the protests were a sign America "isn't really a free country", it doesn't really seem to bother him too much.

    He said he and his family "love Donald Trump very much". They've met him many times, once after a campaign to get a better deal on the Trump Tower rent.

    For what it's worth, the President agreed to reduce it slightly.

    Souvenir seller hopes Trump makes him a diplomat

    Like his political hero, the souvenir seller certainly has a similar penchant for outlandish predictions and larger-than-life self-promotion.

    A profile that appeared in the New York Times is stuck to the shop window and he pointed a customer to it before we spoke.

    He also says the President will win the next election in a "landslide", before daughter Ivanka takes over as the first female commander-in-chief in 2024.

    "Very soon I hope [the Trump administration] will get me a job in the foreign office [state department] in a South Asian country," he said.

    "I want to do anything to help make America great again."

    Despite some of the controversies that have gripped the White House, Mr Sewani says he is "fully loyal" to the President.

    It is, of course, in his interest to say that.

    If Mr Trump remains in power for another six years, the former migrant may have made enough money to retire earlier than planned.

    "People are coming from all over the world looking for Trump stuff," he said.

    "Here we are filling a need."

    © 2019 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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