While President Donald Trump’s visits to Palm Beach County can be disruptive at times, at least one business owner is making out, selling pizzas by the dozen to Secret Service agents.
WEST PALM BEACH — Samy Metaj likes President Trump — at least, he likes the money he earns when Trump is in town.
Metaj co-owns Sam’s Pizza in West Palm Beach, located on the mainland about five minutes west of Mar-a-Lago.
The joint is nothing fancy — a few old tables and chairs along the window in front of a massive open kitchen. Low-key, is what people looking to be inconspicuous might call it. Like a particular group of Sam’s customers.
“They come here all the time, the Secret Service,” Metaj said of the steady, albeit seasonal, patrons — Trump’s security team. “Four, six, seven times a day for different shifts.”
Metaj said they order as many as 20 pizzas at once, and while his prices are relatively low, that kind of volume adds up in revenues.
“I’m thankful they support small businesses,” he said of the Secret Service members he called “very, very nice guys.”
While Metaj is thrilled when Trump is in town, not everyone feels the same way.
In West Palm Beach, traffic jams, road closures, and flight diversions abound. On the island of Palm Beach, the area from Mar-a-Lago to midtown takes the brunt of the problems.
Despite the fact that Trump rarely leaves Mar-a-Lago, except to golf, some roads north of the Southern Boulevard bridge are closed to all but local traffic when he is in town.
“There’s no question that it’s more difficult to get here, and less people are going to come to shop if they’ve got to be detoured around,” Richard Lynn, president of The Greater South County Road Association, said about how some island businesses are adversely affected by Trump’s presence.
On an island less than a mile deep at the widest point, the closure of even one artery can cause gridlock, affecting residents, business owners and day workers.
Tourists and looky-loos also cause traffic jams, gathering on corners to rally for Trump, protest him, or simply catch a glimpse of his black SUV dashing by.
Most, however, leave disappointed, as Trump and family are almost never spotted around town.
“In all the time that’s he’s been in office, I don’t remember him being seen on the street with [Melania] or the son, just walking around like normal people,” Lynn said. “JFK had the mansion on the north end, and when he was the president . . . they would eat in Greene's Pharmacy for breakfast.”
Sue Gibson, a 20-year resident of Palm Beach, said she’s never seen the Trump family out and about. It’s aircraft engines that let her know when he’s in town.
“Whether you want to wake up at 5:45 in the morning or not, you do, even on a day that you want to sleep in,” she said of modified flight patterns that take loud, low-flying planes directly over her midtown home. “If it happens for a few days, it’s not a big deal, but the president is planning to spend two weeks here over the holidays. That can be really frustrating.”
In October, Trump announced his intent to declare residency in Florida. The president has spent all or part of 112 days during his entire presidency in Palm Beach on 27 trips. He is expected to travel here a number of times before the current season ends in April.
That means more road closures, more diverted flights and little chance that Gibson will enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep anytime soon.
But Samy Metaj doesn’t mind.
“They gave me a $60 tip,” he said of delivering 20 pizzas to Mar-a-Lago last year. “I make a lot of business from Donald Trump.”
And while Lynn is less than thrilled with Trump’s effect on some island businesses, he said he doesn’t mind too much, either.
“I happen to think it’s exciting to have the President of the United States living in your hometown,” he said. “Not every city in the world has a president.”