Kenosha business owner accuses Trump of using destroyed store for political gain
A business owner in Kenosha, Wis., is accusing President Trump of using his destroyed store for political gain during a visit to the city on Tuesday.
Tom Gram, the owner of a century-old store called Rode’s Camera Shop that burned to the ground last week amid protests following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, told local outlet TMJ4 that he declined the White House’s request to be part of Trump’s tour of the damage.
“I think everything he does turns into a circus and I just didn’t want to be involved in it,” Gram said.
He also said he was stunned to see the store’s former owner, John Rode, who sold the family business to Gram eight years ago, participating in the tour with the president.
“John Rode III, owner of Rode’s Camera Shop,” Trump said as he introduced Rode during a roundtable conversation.
Rode also walked with the president during a tour of the wreckage and praised the president’s response to the demonstrations.
“I just appreciate President Trump coming today, everybody here does,” Rode said, holding a picture of the store front. “We’re so thankful we got the federal troops here. Once they got here things did calm down quite a bit.”
“A day earlier would have saved his store,” Trump responded.
The local news outlet noted that while Rode no longer owns the camera shop, he is still the owner of the property where the business is located.
Gram said it was deceptive for the president to refer to Rode as the owner of the camera shop and call it “his store.”
Gram also said he is disappointed that Rode’s comments praising the president were construed to reflect the views of current ownership.
“Do your job. I think he needs to bring this country together rather than divide it,” Gram said of the president. “I think there’s a lot of good people in this community and to say that only law enforcement is correct is not the message we need to hear right now.”
Trump visited the city despite pleas from state and local officials that he stay away.
“I, along with other community leaders who have reached out, are concerned about what your presence will mean for Kenosha and our state,” Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) said in a letter to the White House. “I am concerned your presence will only hinder our healing. I am concerned your presence will only delay our work to overcome division and move forward together.”
Kenosha’s mayor also urged the president not to come.
“Realistically, from our perspective, our preference would have been for him not to be coming at this point in time,” Mayor John Antaramian (D) said on Sunday.
“All presidents are always welcome and campaign issues are always going on. But it would have been, I think, better had he waited to have for another time to come,” Antaramian added.
Evers confirmed this week that the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation is authorizing $1 million in funding for loans of up to $20,000 for local businesses that were harmed or damaged during protests in recent weeks.
The loan program aims to help with cleanup, repairs and other restoration services at no cost to small business owners.
“When I was in Kenosha I saw a lot of pain and anguish, but I also saw a lot of people being resilient and trying to rebuild,” Evers said.
Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.