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Archive for Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Tourism slows in Bush’s Texas town

February 7, 2007

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— Near the lone stoplight on Main Street, a "For Sale" sign hangs from a dusty window where a shop used to sell souvenirs in honor of the town's famous resident, President George W. Bush.

Another gift store here, where Bush's ranch is located, is closed too, though a sign says it will reopen elsewhere. And the biggest souvenir shop in town is reporting a drop in sales.

The Washington professionals have their polls, their focus groups and their newspaper editorials. But this 700-person town has its trinket stores, and they have fallen on hard times. Some say it reflects Bush's sinking popularity over the war in Iraq.

Norma Nelson Crow closed her Crawford Country Style store three months ago.

"I feel so strongly about the president that I wanted to continue to support him any way I could," she said. "But I'm distressed about the poll numbers and think it was a combination of things: that and the protesters."

She suggested that the anti-war demonstrations that Cindy Sheehan, who lost her son in Iraq, started in Crawford in 2005 have led some tourists to stay away.

It was in 1999 that then-Gov. George W. Bush bought his 1,600-acre ranch seven miles from downtown in this ranching and gas-drilling region 20 miles (30 kilometers) west of Waco. After Bush took office as president in 2001, the ranch became known as the Western White House, drawing thousands of visitors a year hoping to see the ranch, which is not even visible from the road.

After reporting nearly $813,000 in gross sales in 1999, Crawford's souvenir shops and other retail businesses generated $1.03 million in 2000, the year Bush was first elected. Sales climbed steadily during Bush's first term to $2.66 million in 2004.

A truck passes through downtown Crawford, Texas, a few miles from President Bush's ranch. The souvenir shops in Bush's hometown have fallen on hard times, in what some say is a gauge of his plummeting popularity.

A truck passes through downtown Crawford, Texas, a few miles from President Bush's ranch. The souvenir shops in Bush's hometown have fallen on hard times, in what some say is a gauge of his plummeting popularity.

But in 2005, sales had dropped to $2.3 million. They were down as much as 20 percent in each of the first two quarters of 2006. And while the third- and fourth-quarter figures are not yet available, all indications show the slide continued.

The Crawford Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture said it had no figures on visitors.

"Our economy didn't depend on him before he was elected, and it won't depend on him after he's out of office," said Kenneth Judy, vice president of Security Bank of Crawford, which opened in 2002 and is the town's first bank since the Depression.

Another possible reason given for the downturn in business: Bush did not visit his ranch in 2006 as often he used to.

Bill Johnson, owner of Crawford's largest gift shop, Yellow Rose, said he plans to continue running his store.

"I think the president's ratings will go up, and when that happens, the sales go up," he said.

Comments

Kontum1972 7 years, 10 months ago

Bill Johnson..dont hold your breath on the ratings.....

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