by Nat Frothingham
MONTPELIER — The Bernie Sanders campaign for President has sparked a cottage industry of sorts here in Vermont and elsewhere.
Local businesses inspired by Sanders’ presidential bid are selling bumper stickers, hats, tee shirts and mugs. You can also buy “Feel the Bern” underwear (at Capitol Stationers). Did the candidate disclose his shortage of underwear?
In downtown Montpelier, the local tattoo shop is offering free Bernie tattoos.
When I visited The Uncommon Market at the corner of School and Elm streets in Montpelier, co-owner Sharon Allen was selling a jar of jam with a label that said: “Homemade Feel the Bern” Mango Habanero Jam.”
The label goes on to say, “Handcrafted in Vermont since the 70s with no-nonsense ingredients that can really heat things up” and “Unlike Bernie: It can be bought! (and we’re donating to his campaign!).” This jam is from Sidehill Farm in Brattleboro (sidehilljam.com).
Just as I was walking out the door of Uncommon Market, Sharon told me about the “Bernie Bar” from Nutty Steph’s in Middlesex. So I talked via phone with Nutty Steph’s owner Jaquelyn Rieke.
“We call it the “Bernie Bar,” she said. On the wrapper it says, “Vote Bernie: Dark chocolate with a liberal amount of sea salt.”
When I complained that Uncommon Market was sold out of Bernie Bars, Rieke said, “They’re always sold out. Five cases, 10 cases, 20 cases — it’s never enough.”
Reike reported that she can hardly keep up with the demand. “We’re bringing in extra people, extra hours.” Reike said she’s already sold 5,000 Bernie Bars since she started making and selling them on December 17.
“We sell them by the case.” She explained that people are reselling the bars to earn money to contribute to the Bernie Sanders campaign. The math is simple. Nutty Steph’s sells the 12 bars for $39. Then the purchaser turns around and sells the bars for $6 apiece — that’s $72 — a profit of $33 — that the purchaser can turn over to the Sanders campaign.
Reike said, “We have a great product related to Bernie, and everyone is crazy about it.” She went on to note that the popular State Street coffee shop Capitol Grounds has also been getting a piece of the Bernie action.
Capitol Grounds sells tee shirts, mugs and bags of coffee with a depiction of Bernie Sanders created by Rick Powell, owner of The Book Garden. “Here’s a bean we think Bernie would be proud of: a delightful arabica grown at high elevation in an environmentally sustainable manner,” according to the website www.capitolgrounds.com. Twenty percent of Bernie’s Beans sales go to the Vermont Veteran’s Fund. So, it seems that the excitement caused by Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid is the gift that keeps on giving back here in Montpelier.