‘It’s not as it seems’: Trump merchandise sales’ purpose is unclear to area residents

A Trump merchandise vendor seen at Torrey Pines Road and La Jolla Shores Drive in June.
Various Trump merchandise vendors have been seen around the county, including this one at Torrey Pines Road and La Jolla Shores Drive in June.

A pop-up store selling merchandise promoting President Trump and his reelection campaign has several residents in Rancho Santa Fe questioning its motives and money trail.

The vendor is similar to several seen in communities around San Diego County, including Rancho Bernardo and La Jolla, where Trump merchandise sales have been spotted in three locations, most recently at Scripps Park at La Jolla Cove. It’s unclear whether they are all related.

In Rancho Santa Fe, a vendor set up shop on the corner of Paseo Delicias and La Granada in late June.

“[People] should beware [the vendor] may not be as it appears,” said Rancho Santa Fe resident Nick Dieterich, who approached the woman selling the merchandise to ask what company she was affiliated with.

Dieterich said the vendor told him the money was going to “different candidates,” through he wasn’t given a website or company name.

A receipt from a Trump merchandise vendor carries an unrelated name.

Later, Dieterich said, friends in Rancho Santa Fe approached him after buying their own gear from the same vendor. The receipt they showed Dieterich displayed the company name as “Sacramento Women’s March,” an organization dedicated to women’s civil rights and funded by several anti-Trump groups.

“It’s circuitous,” Dieterich said. “It’s not as it seems.”

Rancho Santa Fe is an unincorporated part of San Diego County, so Dieterich called county Supervisor Jim Desmond to request code enforcement information about the vendor.

Miles Himmel, communications director for Desmond’s office, told the Review that the office has received many calls about the vendor and “has forwarded the comments to county code enforcement and they are looking into it.”

County code enforcement representatives could not be reached for comment.

Dieterich said he got a phone number for a St. Louis business owner from a friend who bought merchandise from the vendor.

Dieterich said the business owner, David Brown, told him the name on the receipt was a “clerical error” and that proceeds were going directly to Brown.

Brown told the Review that the money is for “a private business” and declined further comment.

Longtime Rancho Santa Fe resident Bill Weber said he’s also concerned about the business. “It’s anachronistic. We don’t have sidewalk vendors hawking T-shirts,” he said.

Rancho Santa Fe Patrol Chief Matt Wellhouser told the Review that the vendor’s location is not under the oversight of the Rancho Santa Fe Association, which manages the Covenant homeowners association, and said further inquiries would need to go to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

Sheriff’s Lt. Ricardo Lopez said deputies responded to complaints about the sidewalk vendor and said the vendor claimed to be operating under the state’s Safe Sidewalk Vending Act.

“Deputies determined the subject was compliant with the act and did not find any violations,” Lopez said.

Still, Weber said “there’s a lot of concern among residents.”

“Is this really what it purports to be, or are they really raising money for some other organization?” he said.

Code enforcement for vendors in La Jolla is done via the San Diego Development Services Department, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.