Business is thriving at the Big Apple Pizza shop thanks to owner Scott Van Duzer's now-infamous bear hug of President Obama.

Sales at his Fort Pierce, Fla. pizza place are up 200 percent, Van Duzer told The Huffington Post, since he lifted Obama off the ground in an exuberant squeeze that transfixed the country on Sunday, launching a flurry of copycat hugs. The 46-year-old businessman went on to embrace CNN's Anderson Cooper and former Florida governor Charlie Crist, as well as many locals who are now coming by the restaurant just to get a quick snuggle.

"Business has been booming," Van Duzer told The Huffington Post.

Around the country, many were upset with the self-identified Republican small business owner for supporting Obama, some threatened a boycott, others posted what he called "vulgar, graphic" notes on social media and even called in fake orders for pizza. But the overwhelming response has been positive, says Van Duzer, who started working at the store when he was 16 and has never worked anywhere else.

"The outpouring of love and support from my community to me has been overwhelming," Van Duzer said. Many have called in to order pizza or donate money to his shop from as far away as Alaska, Hawaii, New York and New Jersey. He's taken their orders and donations and used them to give away pizzas to shelters, veterans associations, and firehouses and police stations, he said.

Van Duzer took over the business in 1991 and runs it with his sons and a few other employees. In 2008 he launched The Van Duzer Foundation, which helps raise awareness and funds for blood donations.

Since Sunday's hug, Van Duzer has sidestepped questions ranging from how the president smelled to whether he was heavy. "People say it was staged, it was fake, and I can tell you right now, from the bottom of my heart, it was like we were high school buddies from 25 years ago at a high school reunion. No matter all the bad, I would do the exact same thing again."

Regardless of how it has been interpreted, Van Duzer saw the hug as a gesture that was "innocent [and] respectful. At the end of the day, it's the president of the United States, not the president of the Democratic party, not the president of the Republicans."

Van Duzer, who voted for Obama in 2008 and plans to vote for him again in November, doesn't take issue with Obama's small business policies. "My business is stronger than it was four years ago, and that's because I take accountability for my business," he said. "I personally run and operate my business, and I don't depend on the government to help me."

Instead, Van Duzer has found a better way to boost business: hugging. "I gave out over 100" hugs Wednesday, Van Duzer said. "We're going to get a monitor, and when we get to about 300 or 400 hugs, we're going to play them on a loop, so people can come in and see their hugs. We're having a good time with it."

Van Duzer isn't the first to feel the positive ripple effect of an Obama encounter. After Obama visited a Five Guys location in 2009, the hamburger joint saw business more than double, and had to stay open late to meet the overwhelming demand. Even Al Green got an Obama bump after the president crooned "Let's Stay Together" at the Apollo Theater in January 2012, boosting the classic song's sales by 490 percent.


Loading Slideshow...
  • President Barack Obama holds a beer during a visit to Gator's Dockside restaurant in Orlando, Florida, on September 8, 2012 during the first day of a 2-day bus tour across Florida. AFP PHOTOS/SAUL LOEB

  • Obama picks up a beer during a visit to Gator's Dockside restaurant in Orlando, Florida, September 8, 2012 during the first day of a 2-day bus tour across Florida. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB

  • Obama drinks a beer at Gator's Dockside restaurant in Orlando. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB

  • Obama gets a beer and a pork chop as he visits the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines on August 13, 2012 during an unannounced stop on his three-day campaign bus tour. AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON

  • Obama has a beer with Mike Cunningham III and other workers at the beer stand at the Iowa State Fair, Monday, Aug. 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

  • Obama drinks a beer as he sits with his wife Michelle, daughter Malia, and Vice President Joe Biden, as the U.S. Senior Men's National Team and Brazil play during a pre-Olympic exhibition basketball game at the Verizon Center on July 16, 2012 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

  • Obama shares a beer with Suzanne Woods (R) and Jennifer Klanac (L) during at Ziggy's Pub and Restaurant Amherst, Ohio, July 5, 2012, during an unannounced visit while on a bus tour of Ohio and Pennslyvania. AFP PHOTO/Jim Watson

  • Obama raises his glass while drinking Guinness at The Dubliner pub on March 17, 2012 in Washington. Obama went to the bar to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI

  • Obama drinks a Guinness beer at The Dubliner pub on March 17, 2012 in Washington. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI

  • Obama holds up a bottle of beer as he delivers a case of White House brewed beer to the fire fighters at Fire Station No. 14, during an unscheduled stop, Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012, in Norfolk, Va. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

  • In this July 16, 2012 file photo, Obama sips his beer as he watches Team USA and Brazil during the first half of an Olympic men's exhibition basketball game, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

  • In this July 5, 2012 file photo, Obama has a beer as he talks with patrons as he stops for a beer at Ziggy's Pub and Restaurant in Amherst, Ohio. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

  • Barack Obama

    Obama stops for a beer at The Pump House, a pub and grill, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012, in Cedar Falls, Iowa, during a three day campaign bus tour through Iowa. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

  • Obama clinks beer glasses with unemployed construction workers as they sit down for a discussion at the Harp and Celt Restaurant and Irish Pub in Orlando, Florida, October 11, 2011. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB

  • The Obamas sip Guinness at a pub as they visit Moneygall village in rural County Offaly, Ireland, where the President's great-great-great grandfather Falmouth Kearney hailed from, on May 23, 2011. Obama landed in Ireland on May 23, 2011 for a visit celebrating his ancestral roots, kicking off a four-nation European tour. AFP PHOTO/ JEWEL SAMAD

  • In this July 30, 2009 file photo, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have a beer with Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., second from left, and Cambridge, Mass., police Sgt. James Crowley in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)