Local businesses get pushback for pro-Trump signage

Joel Oliphint

In the year leading up to the presidential election, and in the month or so since Donald Trump clinched the Electoral College, there has been no shortage of political opinions expressed vociferously across Columbus. Normally, those opinions come from individuals, not businesses. But when a couple of local establishments seemed to endorse Trump, citizens took notice - especially on social media.

In the days following the election, a sign outside the Upper Arlington location of beloved Italian eatery Tommy's Pizza stated, "Congrats Donald Trump and Mike Pence." (Pence also visited Tommy's on the campaign trail in October.) Soon enough, a photo of the sign began circulating on Facebook, prompting some users to vow never again to dine on Tommy's famous cracker crust.

Tommy's Pizza owner Rick Iacono declined to comment for this story, but a source familiar with the situation said the sign affected business. A barrage of angry customers called the store to express their disapproval, and the number of diners on a typical day decreased before the message was taken down less than two weeks after it initially appeared. "Business was suffering like crazy," the source said.

Before the election, an Instagram user also spotted a Trump/Pence campaign sign in the window of another business, Clintonville natural-health store Momentum 98, which opened in 1980 and has been in its current High Street location since 1988. When reached by phone for comment, Momentum owner Phil Wilson expressed outrage over the perceived endorsement.

"I did not put that sign in the window. ... If anyone put a Trump sign in the window, it's grounds for termination. That's not appropriate for a business," he said, then paused while a woman in the background said to him, "I put it there."

"My wife put it there," Wilson continued, "and she should not have because that's very embarrassing for me as a business owner to have my name associated with an egomaniac."

Wilson went on to clarify that his wife asked her son to put the sign in the window, and he did as she requested, although it didn't remain in view for long. Wilson emphasized the sign was unauthorized and that Momentum 98 didn't endorse either candidate. "It's totally unacceptable for a business to make a statement like that in a politically charged arena," he said.

For his part, Wilson was a strong supporter of Bernie Sanders. "Certainly, I think Clinton is a murderer," he said. "I don't respect her. I've read hundreds of stories about her. She's in bed with Monsanto. She's not in favor of holistic health. … When Bill Clinton was doing cocaine trafficking in Arkansas, a lot of people who were gonna testify against him died mysteriously."

But Wilson's disdain for Clinton doesn't translate into support for Donald Trump. "[Trump] is emotionally scarred. He has a lot of problems, and it's embarrassing to have someone like that as a president-elect," he said.

"It's totally fine for my employees to have their viewpoint," Wilson continued. "There are people who work for me who are in favor of Trump, and I guess my wife is in favor of Trump. … My hope is still that neither Trump [nor] Clinton become the next president. I'm hoping for a miracle that someone else will - somehow, some way."