Hopeful RNC Vendors Include Yoga Studio, Brewery, And A Funeral Home

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By ideastream’s Brian Bull

With an estimated 50,000 people coming to Cleveland for the 2016 RNC in July, hopes are high that they’ll spend, spend, spend.  There’s already a suppliers and vendors directory in progress, listing the many local services hoping to tap into the estimated $250 million that’ll be spent during the week-long event. 

We talked to a few aspiring business partners of the RNC, starting with…the Gaines Funeral home.

Now when you hear of someone “dying” on the political stage, that’s a figurative, not a literal, term. So I was intrigued to know exactly what this business had to offer the RNC next July.

“No, we’re not here for funeral service in this particular time for this particular event,” laughs CEO Kaye Evans Gaines.  “No, it’s the use of our vehicles.”

Out back, a driver lines up a sleek black limousine next to three others. 

Altogether, Gaines has four limousines, two SUVs, and 19 insured drivers at the ready…plus maybe 10 to 12 more vehicles handy through a local limo partner should she need them.  During the week of the RNC, Gaines figures her operation will be five times busier than normal.

“Because we still have families that we’re servicing,” explains Gaines. “We don’t want to move away from that because that’s what we stand for.  But we still want to tap into some of that business and provide transportation for the people coming in and out of Cleveland.”

Gaines says there’ll be meetings with RNC Host Committee organizers, as well as planning meetings with her own staff to determine rates, advertising, and convention logistics.  In the meantime, they’ll keep their limos at the ready for delegates who want to travel Cleveland in a style a step above taxis or Uber.  

Now, of the many words used to describe a political convention,  “relaxing” probably isn’t one of them.  Whether you’re a delegate rushing through crowds or a supplier hauling confetti, these events can be stressful. 

One Ohio City vendor would like to counter that…Vision Yoga and Wellness.

“We have expert quality-level yoga instructors, massage therapists, acupuncture, and rolfing,” says owner Theresa Gorski.    

Hardwood floors, soft lighting, mellow music, and scented candles give a calming ambience to her studio.  During a morning class, about a dozen people stretch and contort themselves.  Later, another group gets acupuncture treatment with sanitized needles. 

But for all the serenity, Gorski and her crew have actually been working hard preparing for the RNC.

“Our marketing staff already reached out to the concierges at most of the major hotels downtown, they know exactly what we’re going to be offering, and we’re gonna hope to maintain that relationship,” says Gorski. 

“We’re also going to be looking at LinkedIn, to connect with those might be helping with the delegations for specific states to kinda reach out to them on our own.”

Now let’s head a few blocks away. Whether you’re Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, regardless of your politics, you will get thirsty at some point.  

“If you win, it’s a good reason to drink a lot of beer, if you lose, it’s a good reason to drink a lot of beer!” laughs Paul Benner, who co-owns Platform Beer Company.   

RNC organizers contacted Benner recently, and held an onsite visit.

“The questions were really like, “How many people can you fit?  Are you open to having food, outside food….are you open to renting the entire place out for the day, or would you rather just have smaller parties here? How excited, how comfortable are you having a large group in here? Can your staff handle it?” 

“And all those questions were ‘yes”.

A pretty big deal for a brewery that opened not quite a year and a half ago.  Benner says they’re looking into RNC-themed beers, but won’t reveal just what those will be yet.  As for how much he expects business to spike during convention week in July?

“500 percent!  What do you think?  I’ve no idea!” laughs Benner.  “That’d be great, right?  I would imagine that we’ll be pleased with the week.”

The Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE) has hosted several vendor forums, and is working with Destination Cleveland and the RNC in building the directory.  COSE Executive Director Steve Millard says there’s already 1250 suppliers registered, and many stand to benefit during the RNC.

“There’s going to be over 1200 events that week happening, each one being planned separately with its own need for support and suppliers, so there really is a lot of opportunity for a lot of different folks,” says Millard.  “The same caterer can’t do 50 different events at the same time, so we should see a lot of opportunity for folks during the convention.”

At the same time, Millard and other officials say it’s important not to get hopes up too high during the RNC.  They say a lot of spending will be concentrated in or around Quicken Loans arena where the convention will be taking place, and no one’s bound to retire from what money they make that week. 

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