BROOKFIELD — Less than five miles apart, in the towns of Brookfield and North Brookfield, sit two shops. Both have five-star ratings on Google and sell CBD oil. One, nestled in the bottom of a green and white Colonial with succulents and mums flanking the entrance, markets artisan health goods. The other, in a shack behind a ramshackle one-story countryside home, boasts more firearms than square feet.
And the owners of the businesses — Tip Top Country Store and Paradis Firearm & Repair — reacted to the news of the impeachment inquiry into President Trump very differently.
“I’m very excited about it. I think it’s about time this happened and hopefully something will come of it. It’s a very serious and clearly illegal matter,” said Sarah Heller of Tip Top, which will be closed this Friday, like last Friday, in solidary with the climate strike.
Not far away, behind a glass case featuring panoply of pistols and a “Make America Great Again” knife, Paul Paradis vehemently disagreed: “This is so stupid. They don’t have any evidence. They’ve been trying to impeach him since the day he was elected.”
The MAGA-themed blade was a gift from a customer. Paradis said he had to post a not-for-sale sign because patrons kept trying to purchase it.
Generally, residents of these towns avoid talking politics. “We don’t really get into it,” said longtime North Brookfield resident Mona Castonguay.
American flags dot homes, sidewalks, and truck bumpers, and these days few campaign signs perch on lawns. But on Election Day, the towns lean historically and unapologetically red.
In 2016, 60.8 percent of Massachusetts voted for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, leaving Trump with a paltry 33.5 percent. But in the towns of Brookfield and North Brookfield, that ratio was flipped, with 53 percent and 56 percent of the vote respectively going to Trump. Three years later, many of those supporters plan to vote for him again, controversy or not.
On Wednesday, the impeachment furor ballooned as the transcript of a phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky seemed, for now, to further divide the already polarized political parties.
Over the course of the day, while more congressional Democrats came out in favor of impeachment, Republicans generally stayed silent. But in Brookfield and North Brookfield, many residents treated the news with the same expectant exasperation as Paradis.
Across the way from the Elm Street gun shack, Castonguay patiently watered her home’s fledging lawn and expressed impatience with the latest drama unfolding in the capital.
“Congress gets zip done. They’re like little kids in the sandbox. Always fighting,” said the longtime North Brookfield resident. She voted for Trump in 2016 and plans to do so again next year, but noted — like many of her peers in town — that she identifies as an Independent.
“If they just left [Trump] alone, he’d probably accomplish a lot more,” she said.
In the center of North Brookfield, salon owner Debbie Bryant had not yet heard about the impeachment inquiry because she said politics and religion are off limits in the workplace. But once informed, she quickly came to the president’s defense.
“He’s trying to do his job and the media and the Democrats are trying to sabotage him,” she said, as a blow-dryer hummed inside her 36-year-old business. “Yes, he has no filter. All of the things that they say are true. But if the country is in good shape, that’s all we wanted. So [the Ukraine controversy] to me is just white noise.”
Even within Sarah Heller’s natural foods store — which she touts as a liberal enclave within a red region — two men gathered for their daily afternoon black coffee and refused to give credence to the impeachment inquiry.
“They’re using a bunch of third-hand reports to make something out of nothing,” said one of the men, who said he was from Spencer. The duo, both of whom declined to give their names, lean much farther right than the admittedly liberal Heller. One is a Trump supporter and the other cast a vote for Libertarian Gary Johnson in 2016.
But in line with the town’s polite parameters, they rarely talk politics during their caffeinated 2 p.m. rendezvous. And the men don’t complain about the shop being closed on Friday for the climate strike. And Brookfield functions – divided and idyllic — until its next Election Day.