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Kenosha business owner declines President Trump photo-op, former owner replaces him

Posted at 10:15 PM, Sep 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-02 07:53:41-04

A Kenosha business owner is accusing President Donald Trump of using his destroyed store for political gain.

Tom Gram’s century-old camera shop burned to the ground a week ago during the unrest in Uptown Kenosha. Gram said he declined President Trump’s request to be a part of his tour of damage Tuesday in Kenosha. Instead, a former owner of the shop was invited and he praised the president’s efforts.

Gram has owned Rode’s Camera Shop since he bought the business from the Rode family eight years ago. He worked at the store for more than four decades, but that all came to an end last Monday when the building went up in flames.


Gram said he got a call Monday from the White House asking if he’d join the president on a tour that would showcase his leveled business, but Gram immediately refused.

“I think everything he does turns into a circus and I just didn’t want to be involved in it,” Gram said.

To Gram’s surprise, he watched on TV as the president showed up with the store’s former owner and President Trump made it seem like the store was still his.

“John Rode III, owner of Rode’s Camera Shop,” President Trump said as he introduced Rode during a round table conversation on Tuesday.

Rode does not own Rode’s Camera Shop. However, he does own the property, located at 2204 Roosevelt Road in Kenosha, the site of Rode's Camera Shop.

Donald Trump
President Donald Trump talks with John Rode former owner of Rode's Camera Shop as he speaks with business owners Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020, during a tour of an area damaged during demonstrations after a police officer shot Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Rode was in front of TV cameras during the tour and he commended President Trump’s response to the Kenosha unrest.

“I just appreciate President Trump coming today, everybody here does,” Rode said. “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,” President Trump responded.

Gram said President Trump’s references to John Rode III as the owner of Rode’s Camera Shop and it being “his store” were deceptive. Gram says he is disappointed Rode III’s comments Tuesday were construed to reflect the views of current ownership.

“I think he needs to bring this country together rather than divide it,” Gram said.

“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,” Gram said.

TMJ4 News reached out to the White House to ask why President Trump claimed the business still belonged to the former owner, but we haven’t heard back yet. TMJ4 was unable to reach Rode for comment.

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