Matt Batrowny and his brother, Brian, were early supporters of Bernie Sanders. One day last summer, shortly after the senator from Vermont announced that he was running for president, recalls Matt, “We were walking down the street with a couple of buddies, and we had Bernie T-shirts on. A lot of people didn’t know about his candidacy, but it was the perfect plug to pitch his platform.”
The brothers, who’d moved to Denver from New York almost six years earlier, own the Print Complex, a full-service printing company with facilities in Aurora and upstate New York, and they decided to put their business to work on behalf of their candidate. But T-shirts weren’t enough. “We wanted to do something a little different,” Matt says. “Sandals were perfect.”
They thought about launching a Kickstarter to raise funds to mass-produce the sandals, but first found a supplier outside Atlanta — it had to be a company in the USA, Matt points out — who could ship them the right kind of sandals, made of recycled microplast material. Not flip-flops, of course, which might reflect badly on their candidate, but advanced shower slippers in blue and red, with plenty of space where they could print a stylized image of Sanders at their Aurora plant.
And then FoxNews’s Megyn Kelly, in describing Sanders’s win in the New Hampshire primary on February 9, made a fateful slip. “On the Democratic side,” she reported, “Bernie Sandals — Sanders — Sandals could catch on in the summer months.”
Which is exactly what the brothers were thinking, but they weren’t yet ready to go to market. “We didn’t have the Kickstarter launched at that time, because we’d wanted to get a feel,” Matt admits. “We kicked ourselves. We really missed that.”
But they were determined not to miss out altogether, and so when they attended their precinct’s Democratic caucus on March 1, they were sporting test models of the Bernie Sandals.
They also did a little poll of their own, asking whether it was acceptable to wear socks with the sandals, “and 80 percent said no,” Matt remembers. But that hasn’t deterred the brothers from donning socks on colder days as they continue to walk the streets in favor of their candidate, selling forty pairs in the process at $25 per (or $35 for two, the “Early Bern” special).
And now the Bernie Sandals Kickstarter is up and running, urging supporters to “Walk with Bernie all the way to the White House” and donate a total of $10,000 to the cause by the deadline of May 4. (For the record, Kickstarter does not allow funds to go toward a political campaign; the brothers say that if the campaign is successful, they will set up a site to sell the sandals, with $1 from every sale going to the Bernie2016 campaign.) At this writing, $4,135 has been pledged.
The Batrowny brothers aren’t giving up, though. Not on their candidate, and not on their concept. They missed the chance to slush in sandals through the snow to the state Democratic convention, because they’ve been out canvassing for Sanders in different states. Over the weekend they were in New York, working upstate, getting the vote out for today's primary. Fortunately, it was 70 degrees in New York on Monday, removing any need for socks.
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They’re hoping their Bernie Sandals will take them all the way to the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia, and just in case, they have another product in the works: the Bernie SuperPAC, “the preferred storage accessory for the 99 percent,” a fanny pack for supporters who have everything...except a SuperPAC that will accept contributions to Bernie Sanders’s cause.
Here's the Bernie Sandals video from the Kickstarter page.