By Bob Vosseller and Chris Lundy
TOMS RIVER – Some people enjoy literally wearing their politics on their sleeve, and a Toms River store has made that just a little bit easier.
The Let’s Go Brandon store located at 1405 Route 37 East opened recently and its owners, Vinny Scuzzese and Greg Dooner, both of Toms River have made a big splash with national coverage on a Fox News show as well as with local media.
The store features a full line of Trump paraphernalia ranging from hoodies, T-shirts and a number of items that would recall memories of the 2020 campaign season. This wasn’t the duo’s first foray into opening a politically oriented store. Their first effort was in September of 2020 in downtown Toms River at a location near the post office.
“This year we decided to open up a storefront. My partner put it on Facebook and from there it went to Scanner News and from there it went to The New York Post and then Laura Ingraham called us and wanted to do a live show and they came by Sunday and on Monday we were on live with Judge Jeanine Pirro and the whole store was mobbed.”
“Let’s Go Brandon” came from a catchphrase coined after the 45th president lost the election. It began in September 2021 during a televised racing event where the audience started chanting “(expletive) Joe Biden” but the NBC reporter covering the event was confused and thought the crowd was chanting “let’s go Brandon” for race winner Brandon Brown. It didn’t take long for the reporter to realize she had made a mistake.
Trump supporters adopted the slogan and merchandisers capitalized on it. Magnets and life-sized cut outs of Donald Trump are among the store’s merchandise. When asked what the top selling item in the store was, Scuzzese replied, the “We the People Are Pissed Off” shirts were nearly out of stock. The likeness of Trump wearing sunglasses and a leather jacket to resemble The Terminator (the cyborg portrayed by ex-California Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger) is also easy to locate.
Scuzzese said a more formal grand opening date is expected to take place “in the middle of April.” He pointed out the store’s blue mini-bus parked in front. It features Trump in shades with the motto “I’ll be back” – also a reference from The Terminator. The vehicle is used to transport items to the various rallies.
The store is not without its critics. An opinion piece published by NJ 101.5’s Kylie Moore called it “obnoxious” and pointed out the double standard of this “Hillary lost – get over it” branch of the GOP.
Commenters on Ocean County Scanner News pointed out how some Trump supporters want Americans to fight other Americans.
Critics noted how the merchandise shows Trump supporting the military when he was a draft dodger who let Russia have a U.S. base in Syria.
Also, Trump’s role in the January 6 insurrection was called into question by readers on social media, as well as other situations where his words or actions have led to military, police and other Americans being put in danger. They talk about the damage he has done to democracy.
Online critics have been pointing out the grift that Trump has been accused of in the past – making money off his name and brand. People invest their hard-earned cash to buy something with his name and picture on it, and he’s the only one who profits.
“I find it hard to believe that any intelligent human – especially from NJ – can support lifetime grifting con man Trump. A total joke, every business bankrupt, national embarrassment shilling for Putin along with moron Tucker Carlson,” one reader wrote. “Trump’s been scamming dumb fools his whole life, send him your money and enroll your kids in Trump University, maybe you should enroll to learn ‘the art of the grift.’”
Some wondered if the phrase “Let’s Go Brandon” will still be relevant after Biden is out of office.
The owners believe that bad publicity is still publicity.
Business was brisk during the afternoon Jersey Shore Online.com visited the store. Some customers told Dooner and Scuzzese that they had learned about the store on Fox News and on Facebook. Among the customers who stopped by that day were Anthony Caputo of Brick and his friend Marie Johnson of Hudson County.
“I think it’s great. You see some of the pop-up stands throughout Ocean County but I think this is great. Why not?” Caputo said.
“It takes a little courage to show support. I’m originally from Hudson County. There seems to be an unwillingness to accept opposite opinions,” Caputo added. He was interested in the hats available at the store. “I picked up a flag from one of the roadside pop-ups. It is good to have a store like this and show some type of foothold.”
“The flags are great,” Johnson said. “We need to let everybody speak. They seem to be shutting everyone down if they don’t agree with them.”
Caputo said, “I was brought up in the 60s and 70s and we were brought up to question authority. Now we are being told you can’t question authority. Now if you don’t follow the herd, you are cancelled.”
She noted that if such a store opened in northern New Jersey, “they’d burn it down tonight.”
“If I had the money, I’d help support it. I’d even work there for nothing,” Caputo added.
The mother and daughter duo of Kailie and Kate Dinneveil were also pleased with what they saw in the store. Kailie Dinneveil recently moved to Florida. Her mother lives in Toms River. “My mom is a big Trump fan but I like him too,” Kailie Dinneveil said.
“The shirt that said your mask is as useless as Biden, that is hilarious,” Kailie Dinneveil said. “I’m buying that shirt for my brother. They also had a DeSantos 2024 Make America Florida. I moved to Florida just before COVID and I have said from day one, how blessed I was to live there. They need this store in Florida.”
Scuzzese said “some of the flags are made in China but everything else is made here. We go to the rallies and drive to different towns. We’ve done at least a dozen rallies in the last year. We don’t discriminate – anyone can put out their literature. Democrats can come in, we don’t care. We don’t only sell Trump stuff. We sell 2nd Amendment stuff, Christian stuff, the American flag. We’re pro-American. We are very pro-police and a lot of them come in and give us support.”