Little people

A Bush victory in November could mean big bucks for small Dallas entrepreneurs

Eddie Deen wants to correct Gov. George W. Bush's calculations or, short of that, squeeze more money out of him. "Looks like I might need to send his people another bill," the Dallas caterer says with a laugh.

On the campaign trail the presumptive Republican presidential nominee has told audiences that 20,000 people attended his gubernatorial inaugural party in 1999, and that they were all served barbecue in an hour. Deen, who was responsible for feeding the multitude that day, says that 15,500 people ate in 38 minutes.

Deen's quibble is all in jest, of course.

The founder of a growing Dallas catering company that specializes in barbecue and Western cuisine, Deen couldn't be more grateful for the opportunities -- and publicity -- that have befallen his company since Bush's staff chose Deen to cater the governor's inaugural bashes in 1995 and last year, as well as a presidential campaign rally in New Hampshire.

Now that Bush has all but locked up the Republican nomination, Deen has visions of Pennsylvania Avenue dancing in his head.

"I don't like to count my chickens before they've hatched. First he's got to be elected," Deen says. "But I'm definitely a Bush backer."

One might suspect that Bush's political consultant Karl Rove has already measured the chief of staff's office at the White House to see whether his collection of antique furniture will fit, or that Robert Mosbacher, a Houston oilman and Bush financial backer, has scoped out ambassadorial housing in attractive European cities.

But there are also smaller fry, like Deen, who have some dreams pinned on a Bush victory in November. Hundreds of product makers and service providers have served the Bush camp with expectations that, if he gets into the Oval Office, they might see a windfall. Because politics is a game where the rules and the equipment lists change constantly, Bush's suppliers run the gamut: from sound and lighting technicians to the Web site designers recently recognized by George magazine.

In Dallas, there are professionals who have long done business personally with the Bushes. Dr. Kenneth Cooper, for instance, has had Bush as a patient since 1989. First Lady Laura Bush has purchased campaign clothing from Dallas fashion designer Michael Faircloth.

Faircloth, who stitched together the gowns that Laura Bush wore at the Austin parties and her suits for network television interviews during the primaries, laughs nervously when asked whether he has dreamed up any garments suitable for a dance on a cold January evening next year in Washington.

"We haven't talked about that," Faircloth says, "but I'm a designer, so, of course, in the back of my mind, I have ideas."

In contrast, Deen already has mapped out a tentative plan for a national marketing campaign if he is chosen to truck his smoked meats, salads, rolls, and pies down to the national mall for a Bush inaugural fete. Deen, who has a picture of himself in a cowboy hat and denim shirt on his Web site (eddiedeen.com) alongside Miss Texas USA, plans to sell his food nationally from the Internet. He's constructing a 6,000-square-foot building to house the operation.

Deen first hooked up with the Bush camp for the governor's inaugural in 1995. For that party, where Deen says he served 14,000 in 45 minutes, the caterer competed with some 70 other food providers for the job.

For Deen, who then owned Ranch Hand Barbecue in Terrell, the gubernatorial gig was a launchpad for spectacular growth. He subsequently opened Eddie Deen's Ranch on South Lamar Street in downtown Dallas, where he has a 36,000-square-foot party facility filled with Texas-themed props.

The connection with the governor has been a publicity bonanza for Deen, who says he did 30 interviews with television reporters and 40 with newspaper representatives after the second inaugural party.

Given the marketing might of his ties with the governor, it's not surprising that Deen has bent over backward to assist the Bush camp. When the governor faced his toughest primary campaign battle in New Hampshire, the campaign staff called Deen on the Monday before the Super Bowl to ask whether he could drive his equipment and supplies to the Northeast for a rally of about 300. The day before he set out on the road, the Bush people called and said the crowd may number 500. Deen began to do his own homework.

"I went to the guy who does their audio-visual and said, 'How many people to you think will show up?'" the caterer recalls. By then, he thought he would be serving close to 700. He went back to his assistant and told him they had to rework their plans. Once he arrived in New Hampshire, the designated local caterer for a press breakfast and lunch became ill, so Deen filled in. By the time the Super Bowl rally took place, Deen was serving 1,400 Bush supporters.

Faircloth, who works as the full-time in-house designer at the Lily Dodson boutique, met Laura Bush when she started campaigning for her husband in his first gubernatorial bid. "Mrs. Bush is a very casual person," Faircloth says. Unless she was standing in front of cameras, he says, he assumes she would be just as happy in denim jeans.

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