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Thursday, Jan 26, 2023
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Reality Show Lacking . . . Reality?

For a fleeting moment a reality series focused its makeover attentions on small businesses and three Valley companies got their 15 minutes of fame. The experience did not garner rave reviews, from viewers or participants. “We Mean Business” first aired last fall on the A & E; Television Network and is now airing in re-runs on Saturday mornings. The host for the show is Bill Rancic, who came to fame as the first winner of The Apprentice back in 2004. He’s got two sidekicks, as every good makeover show does: Katie Linendoll, is the techie, and Peter Gurski, is the style guy. Dell provided thousands of dollars of free computer equipment to the businesses which was the only form of compensation received by the owners. The premise of the show is that the team of experts would come in to help a struggling small concern get healthy, but for two of the local owners it was too little, too late. Poka Dott Party Shop in Newhall was out of business shortly after the show’s initial airing. “By the time they filmed, Stephanie (Weier) was ready to file bankruptcy,” said Helen Bougioukos, one of the Poka Dott employees featured in the show. Bougioukos is now a partner with Weier in another venture. “It really was too late, but we thought it would be a last-ditch effort and it might save us.” A similar fate befell Berry Elegance which was featured in the first episode. New owner Andreea Gaskin said that the shop closed shortly after the initial airing. On the show, one of the owners revealed that the Sherman Oaks confectionary was $239,000 in the red when the makeover began. That’s a lot of berries. Even though she didn’t participate in the program, Gaskin, who re-opened the store in February, said the program has had a lasting impact. “I do have a lot of people come in and say they saw the show. It aired as a rerun recently and I had people calling and e-mailing and that Saturday was crazy,” she said. “But most people don’t know it’s not the same owner and when I tell them, their response is ‘we didn’t think it was going to last.'” One of the survivors of the experience was Jasmine Bell, whose Sherman Oaks salon, Jazyhair, is still hanging in there. Bell said she hadn’t solicited being on the program. “I guess they were just looking for different businesses and wanted a hair salon and they contacted me.” The four-day shoot had its positive and negative sides, she said. “They set out computers for us and installed a few other features that no other hair salons have,” said Bell, “but they also created some expenses that I had to cover and did some things I had to fix afterward.” That included replacing the awning over the store’s Ventura Boulevard entrance which the team criticized for not bearing the shop’s name. They also rearranged some of the stations which Bell said had to be returned to their original location, requiring some patching of holes. “The only thing I didn’t like was that they almost tried to humiliate you, the way they talk to you and I didn’t like that which is why we knocked heads a lot,” said Bell. The Poka Dott folks agreed, saying that designer Gurski was borderline abusive. “Peter used a lot of derogatory language,” said Bougioukos, “It’s like they were trying to rattle my cage the whole time.” They also cited editing and coaching with presenting a less-than-realistic picture of their businesses. In the Poka Dott episode, for example, much was made of the fact that the store was not only over-stocked with product, but over-run with employees. “They had instructions that we all show up at work during the remodel, but that’s not how it works,” said Bougioukos. “We usually have one or two people staffing the store at a time and some of the girls, like my daughter, would come in and work for free some of the time.” It doesn’t look like the program is being picked up for a second season. A spokesperson for the A & E; Television Network had no information on any future episodes and Rancic’s publicist did not respond to questions about the show. Likewise, Sherman Oaks-based GRB Entertainment, which produced the show, said they were too busy with shows in development and production to answer any questions. But the entrepreneurs just keep on rolling. The Poka Dott ladies have revamped their business and now operate two ventures one is a completely web-based version of the party supplies shop while the other, Elegant Twist, is a party-planning service. They work out of Weier’s home. As for Jazyhair, Bell said her shop is doing fine. “I don’t accept the bad economy as part of my reality,” she said. “This is L.A. People here will skip a meal to get their hair done.”

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