In Bush's Texas hometown, a tourism slowdown

Published February 7, 2007

CRAWFORD, Texas - Near the lone stoplight, a for-sale sign hangs from a window where a shop used to sell cowboy boots and denim shirts emblazoned "The Western White House."

The Washington professionals have their polls and focus groups. But Crawford, the town where President Bush's ranch sits, has its trinket stores, and they have fallen on hard times, in what some say reflects Bush's waning popularity and an influx of protesters.

It was in 1999 that then-Gov. George Bush bought his 1,600-acre ranch. After he became president in 2001, the ranch became known as the Western White House, drawing thousands of visitors a year.

Crawford's souvenir shops and other retail businesses generated $1.03-million in 2000, the year Bush was elected. Sales climbed steadily during Bush's first term to $2.66-million in 2004.

But in 2005, sales had dropped to $2.3-million. They were down as much as 20 percent in each of the first two quarters of 2006. However, Bill Johnson, owner of Crawford's largest gift shop said he expects a sales rebound.

"I think the president's ratings will go up, and when that happens, the sales go up," he said. "As far as Crawford's future, I think it looks bright."