NEW YORK — It's not easy being Trump these days. Just ask the people at Trump Tobacco in California, Trump Travel in New York, Trump Memorials in Nebraska and Trump Chiropractic & Acupuncture in Kansas.
None of these and dozens of other similarly-named businesses across the country have any connection to a certain presidential candidate known for putting his name on just about everything. But that hasn't stopped them from getting swept up in the campaign and Trump's frequent firestorms over immigrants, women, abortion or nuclear war.
Most aggravating, they say, are the questions from the politically curious about whether they are related to their namesake, supporting him or getting any kind of boost or hit from the Trump mystique.
"I chose the name Trump 10 years ago, thinking, he's a rich guy with a lot of buildings, so maybe I'll get something out of his name," says Mohammad Yousefi, owner of Trump Tobacco in Huntington Beach, California.
Now he wonders what he was thinking. His strip mall storefront that sells mostly cigarettes and cigars has been struggling lately, a downturn he can't say for sure has anything to do with the Republican front-runner.
As for Trump's pronouncements about banning Muslims from coming into this country, Yousefi, an Afghan-born U.S. citizen and Muslim, says he's not offended. "Only because I don't care about that guy now. He's just a politician."
Other businesses contacted by the AP, from Texas and Arkansas to New Jersey, had a very simple reason for using "Trump": It happens to be their family name.
In Decatur, Illinois, Dennis Trump's printing company — Trump Direct — opened 37 years ago. Since then, it's been filling regional direct-mail needs, from bills and tax forms to political fliers. Business has remained as steady as ever lately but things have just gotten a lot more interesting.
"People who don't know us are saying we're rich, and ask me if I'm Donald Trump's relative, the 'likes' on our company Facebook are up, and we get the strangest messages," says the Illinois businessman.
An email arrived one day, apparently aimed at a potential President Trump, reading, "I want to help you with the Middle East."
Local Trump supporters drop by the concrete printing plant to discuss politics.
"I think he resonates with a lot of people around here," says Dennis Trump, a self-professed "Reagan Republican" who has yet to decide which candidate he will support.
For some, the Trump name was not exactly a blessing before the campaign began. Trump has long been known for vigorously protecting the use of his name, which he licensed for use on other developers' building projects and to market products including clothing, furniture, vodka and even steaks.
"He sued me over the name about 25 years ago," says Claudia Rabin-Manning, whose Trump Travel in the Long Island community of Baldwin, N.Y., was initially named by a previous owner for the "trump card" used in games of canasta.
The case was dismissed after Trump's attorneys demanded she post a disclaimer on the facade of the small storefront: "Not affiliated with Donald J. Trump or The Trump Organization."
"It was a David-and-Goliath kind of thing," says Rabin-Manning, a registered independent who is still deciding for whom to vote. "I'm just a little peon. I'm the mom-and-pop business he supposedly wants to help but it's certainly not helping my business to have his name."
In Lincoln, Nebraska, W.J. Trump started his tombstone business in 1921 — long before Donald Trump was born.
"Maybe we should be suing Donald Trump," jokes Darcy Hansen, who with her husband owns Trump Memorials & Funeral Services.
As one of just two major funeral providers in town, business has so far been unaffected by the whims of presidential politics, she says, but some people have "grumbled over the name."
Hansen says one man keeps walking by the company's tombstone-shaped sign, giving "Trump" the finger.