Pride but not much profit in Melania Trump's hometown

December 1, 2016 3:04 PM EST

A man takes a selfie in front of placard with a picture of Melania Trump in her hometown Sevnica, Slovenia, December 1, 2016. Banner reads "Welcome in hometown of first lady of U.S.".REUTERS/Srdjan Zivulovic


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(This version of the December 1 story corrects to show that lawyer did not phone the pizzeria)

By Marja Novak

SEVNICA, Slovenia (Reuters) - When Donald Trump was elected president of the United States last month, the Pizzeria Rondo in Sevnica created a cake named after his wife Melania, who grew up in the Slovenian town.

Mascarpone enriched with strawberry mousse with small candies of gold and silver color on top.

The pizzeria also offered a burger called Trump, notable for the spicy pepperoni it featured.

But after a public warning earlier this week from a lawyer representing Melania Trump, who said that using Melania's name and photo without her consent is not allowed, the burger has changed its name to the Presidential Burger.

Lawyer Natasa Pirc Musar's office issued a statement saying that the names Trump or Melania Trump are protected trademarks.

"Using a photograph for commercial purposes is not allowed without a consent of the person on the photo," Musar said.

Jars of locally-made honey with Melania's picture have disappeared from shop shelves in the past few days. The cakes are sticking with the label for now on the grounds that they only use her first name.

"After consulting Mrs. Trump we only warned the public that there are borders...but we did not send concrete warnings or call anyone specifically," Musar told Reuters.

The legal intervention may have dampened immediate hopes in this town of 4,500 people that it can benefit from its link to international celebrity and political power, although some are optimistic that it will in due course.

Sevnica lies on the banks of the River Sava amid forest-covered hills. Local products include honey, wine, and fittingly, shoes and lingerie.

Melania was born in a hospital in Novo Mesto in 1970, when Slovenia was part of the former Yugoslavia, to car dealer Viktor Knavs and his wife Amalija and she was raised in Sevnica.

She started modeling at the age of 16, then pursued a career in Paris and Milan before moving to New York in 1996.

She married Trump in a lavish wedding in Florida in 2005 and will become first lady of the United States on Jan. 20, 2017 -- only the second to have been born outside the country.

At a roundabout leading into Sevnica, a local newspaper has put up a giant poster featuring Melania Trump's picture and the greeting: "Welcome to the hometown of the First Lady of the USA".

But since the burger and honey flap, there's not a lot more evidence of its illustrious connections.

EDIBLE GOLD

Mojca Pernovsek, head of local tourism bureau KSTM, told Reuters the number of visitors may have gone up by about 5 to 10 percent this year but she expects more will come from next spring, when a new tourist season starts.

"Sevnica gained recognition and I believe sooner or later this will show in economic growth, in higher number of guests in local restaurants, purchases of local products and souvenirs," Pernovsek said.

However, the bureau has no plans to sell tours that would show visitors Melania's former home.

"We are offering tours of the city, which has a lot to show, starting with the castle, but we would not use Melania's name without her consent," Pernovsek said.

The dedicated Melania fan is still able to track down some delights.

The coffee shop Julija was selling a cake carrying Melania’s name, made of white chocolate and covered with edible gold.

In a restaurant in Zavratec, about 13 km from Sevnica, tourists can also try a special menu with trout called Melania.

On a hill above Sevnica, a cottage was selling Melania pancakes which include vanilla cream, blueberries, and yet more edible golden dust.

"I was told that it is not prohibited to use the name Melania since it does not come along with the name Trump," cottage manager Franc Krasovec told Reuters.

"So far we did not get many tourists but we expect more when the weather improves," Krasovec said.

(Reporting by Marja Novak in Sevnica, Editing by Angus MacSwan)



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