But then that gap in the middle, those two empty hooks. I asked the guy who worked there whether that meant what I thought it did.
Yep. That's where the Donald Trump dolls used to be — but they kept selling out.
They still had one in the window, which they handed to me.
I mean: The hair.
Andrew Tsartsalis, president of Pet Central, the chain of stores where I discovered the toys, said in an email that the dolls were "definitely the hottest items on the shelf right now." But, as in the store near me, those sales are not balanced.
He listed stores in different neighborhoods around the city. "Chelsea, West Village, Upper West Side and Carnegie Hill," he wrote, "the Trump toys are out-selling Clinton toys 3-to-1. Murray Hill, Trump out-selling Clinton 4-to-1."
Sanders, he added, was "not even in the ballpark."
This is not just a function of the dolls being for sale in New York City. I spoke with John Lika, co-founder of Fuzzu, the company that makes the dolls. Lika said that the dolls were for sale in hundreds of stores "from Greenland to Alaska," and that the sales pattern is consistent.
"Trump is selling out continuously in stores," Lika said, "and we're getting very quick re-orders." How big are the sales? Trump is selling "probably four to six times" the rate of Sanders and Clinton dolls — combined. They decided to make a larger version of the Trump doll, the jumbo version, 27 inches tall. This isn't a pet toy, mind you. It's a big doll.
They're out of stock on those, too.
Lika's been doing this for years. Back in the 1990s, he had another company that made political toys, including characters now long-gone from the public eye, such as Newt Gingrich and Hillary Clinton.
That company was sold about a decade ago. But with the advent of the 2016 campaign, Lika and his team figured it was too good an opportunity to pass up. They launched a Kickstarter, which met its goal. From there, they built out the company.
Given that pets are not yet able to buy their own toys, the team is strategic about how the toys first appeal to the humans with the credit cards. That's why there are all the little details: You pick it up, laugh at it, and (they hope) don't put it down.
One detail in particular motivated them to explore new ways of creating the dolls. "I mean, my God," Lika said. "Donald's hair was just something that we had to go for."
There are two reasons people buy the dolls, he figures. There are people who buy the dolls because they admire the character. His company is based in Vermont (which is why they made a Sanders doll in the first place), and he thinks purchasers of the Sanders doll are doing it because they like him as a candidate.
The other reason people buy these dolls is because they want to see their dogs chew the character up. He suspects that's more the motivation behind the high-volume Trump sales.
"There's more of that visceral reaction of wanting to see their dog or cat do something" to the Trump doll, he said, "then there is an admiration-and-worship-doll approach in wanting to buy Trump to be a Trump supporter."
"If anything, a Trump supporter would be wanting to buy a Hillary toy to feed to their dog," he added. "I think it's a visceral reaction, and why Trump is selling so well is wanting to see him on the floor."
This assessment of the motivations of the American electorate is firmly in line with recent polling.