Maybe purchase a “black coffee matters” shirt or “Make America Great Again” red cap.
The store, which had a soft opening last Saturday, is a space for Trump supporters to gather for events or just a caffeinated beverage, said co-owner Cliff Gephart.
“It’s a place for conservatives to feel welcome,” Gephart told local news. “There’s not going to be anyone throwing a drink in your face because you’re wearing a MAGA hat."
But it’s not political, Gephart insists.
“I don’t feel like we’re catering to one party,” the Republican told The Washington Post. “It’s about a conservative lifestyle.”
Since the store was announced, Republicans and Democrats alike have taken to social media, either praising Gephart’s stand against “latté liberals” or critiquing him for sowing division. During the Trump administration, partisan strife has played out in real life as well, with Republicans facing skirmishes in public spaces when people react to their red caps. In Largo, even neighboring businesses have taken precautions in advance of the coffee shop opening.
“Our community isn’t as polarizing as this makes us seem,” Andrew Apted, who owns Dharma Kava Lounge in the same strip mall, said about Conservative Grounds. “It’s dividing us over coffee of all things, and coffee shouldn’t divide us because we all like coffee.”
The idea behind the conservative coffee shop was born out of news in July that six police officers were asked to leave a Starbucks in Tempe, Ariz., after a customer complained that their presence made the customer uncomfortable. Gephart said he was further outraged when he read in November that an Oklahoma police officer’s Starbucks order was labeled “PIG."
“It’s about respect for our police officers, for our law enforcement,” said Gephart, who also owns a food stand in downtown St. Petersberg, near Tampa, called Taco Cartel, which sells hot dog meat in a taco shell.
In contrast, Conservative Grounds encourages customers to bring their guns. Open carry is illegal in Florida unless the holder is licensed.
The Florida shop is not the first conservative cafe. The Trumped Store and Coffee House in Arizona sells teddy bears with comb-overs and “acquitted forever” baseball caps along with the java. Covfefe Coffee and Gifts is planning to open in Maine. Other coffee companies support the Second Amendment.
But none have a copy of Trump’s workspace.
It took about 2½ months to build the Oval Office reproduction, which is 10 feet narrower than the real thing, Gephart said. His partner, John Tatum, acquired the Trump memorabilia and furnishings from eBay, Amazon, a local thrift shop and other places.
Gephart studied pictures of the real Oval Office, even finding Trump family photos and frames to match.
On top of the Resolute desk knockoff, the shop has a copy of the red button on Trump’s desk. Trump’s button alerts staff to bring him a glass of coke on a silver platter. When shop-goers press Gephart’s button, fashioned from a speaking pen, Trump’s voice says seven different phrases, including:
“I will be the greatest president God ever created," and
“I’m really rich."
About a thousand people showed up for the opening of Conservative Grounds last Saturday, many to take a picture behind the desk and with the Trump cutout, Gephart said.
“From 10 to 1 there was a line of 25 people straight," he said. "All positive energy, no negativity.”
The shop also has a 2016 electorate map hanging from the ceiling, a wall for veterans to autograph and a shrine to the Second Amendment, complete with about 34 guns — all nonfunctional.
Gephart said he hopes to make the coffee shop a gathering place. He hosted a comedy night during the Democratic presidential debate Tuesday. TVs are tuned to Fox News and Newsmax TV, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
The shtick ends at the menu, which includes all the food and drink items of a typical coffee shop. But Gephart has plans there, too.
“We might name the decaf ‘sleepy joe,’” he said, referencing Trump’s nickname for former vice president Joe Biden.
While most of the gimmicks are pro-Trump, a door leading to the back alley and dumpsters is labeled “liberal safe space, enter here."
Apted, the owner of Dharma Kava Lounge, called the sign Gephart posted on his back door offensive.
“If they are pushing away liberals there, at the end of the day, they have built a safe space for people that share their ideology, only,” said Apted, who is running as a Democrat for the state House of Representatives seat for the district.
Also in the strip mall is an LGBTQ bar called Quench Lounge.
The mall is in Pinellas County, which narrowly voted for the Democratic candidate for governor, Andrew Gillem, in 2018, and President Barack Obama in 2012 — but also voted for Trump in 2016.
There are slightly more Democrats registered than Republicans, according to county voter data.
Apted, who is preparing to brief his staff on the new neighbors, said he wants to make sure that customers from the coffee shop who wander into his lounge are welcomed — as long as they are not carrying a gun.
“I think that would scare people,” he said. “I’d ask them to leave.”
But Gephart, who previously ran for local office twice but wasn’t elected, says he isn’t excluding any customers with different political opinions.
Defending the business’s inclusivity, he said financial contributors, which he calls the Founding Fathers, are diverse and include people who are LGBTQ. Gephart did not make those contributors available to The Post for an interview.
“It’s not a coffee shop, it’s a camaraderie shop,” he said.
“I’m not in microaggression, I’m in full-on macroaggression,” Gephart says in one video. “GO TRUMP,” he yells. “How’s that for aggression, baby?”
Gephart said his online presence is separate from his store, which has other investors aside from him.
“I’m not the coffee shop,” he said. “The coffee shop is something separate. I’m just one piece of the puzzle.”
Gephart scrubs negative comments on Facebook and called police days before opening to report an online comment that said his baristas should wear bulletproof vests. Largo police confirmed that Gephart called but said it was “nonspecific threats.”
The coffee shop’s Facebook page, which includes a “Declaration of Independent Coffee,” spurred one local, Josh Porrata, to record dramatic readings of the page on YouTube.
“The Liberal Coffee Companies have obstructed the laws of nature of humanity by refusing God’s existence and the word of God,” he reads in one.
Porrata told The Post that the videos are satirical but the shop’s impact on the area is no joke.
“It’s a splinter in the paw of this community,” he said.