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Sunday, August 29, 2010

The RH Helps Local Businesses Flourish

Post from

The Record
Some people watch "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" for the fights. Some watch it for the fashion. And a growing number of North Jersey businesses watch it to see it to see if they received any airtime.

Photo: Michael Karas
Kim DePaola, Posche boutique owner, said 'people were coming into the store in droves' after the fashion show episode. They're the real businesses of North Jersey, the restaurants, doctor's offices and retail stores that are supporting cast members on Bravo's hit reality show.

Just as the housewives vie to get the most air time each week, North Jersey businesses are angling for a chance to reach a national audience of more than 3 million viewers per episode, as well as fans around the world.

"I have friends [with businesses] calling me up saying, 'You've got to film here. You've got to film here,' " said Albert Manzo, husband of "Housewives'' star Caroline Manzo, and an owner of the business featured most prominently on the show, The Brownstone banquet hall in Paterson. "Everyone wants to be on."
For the businesses that make it on the show — the places where the housewives and their families are seen eating, shopping or having parties — the potential reward is great. They reap the kind of TV time that would cost millions if it was a paid commercial. But public relations experts warn there are risks as well as rewards when businesses enlist reality shows to boost their bottom line.

"You should be familiar with the show first," said Stan Steinreich, head of a public relations agency with offices in Hackensack, Washington, D.C., Tel Aviv and other cities. His firm is increasingly using reality TV placements along with more mainstream media to promote clients. But, Steinreich said, "I don't believe all publicity is good." Sometimes, he said, "it's a far better thing to say, 'No, we'll pass.' "
The North Jersey Country Club wishes it had said no when Bravo asked in November if it could film during the now-infamous fashion show that ended in a physical confrontation between dueling cast members.

"Being somewhat naïve, and not aware of the true nature of the TV show, permission was granted," club manager John Stanley explained in a letter to members, in which he said the "Housewives'' cast and crew are no longer welcome. The club, "clearly made a mistake in signing the release," wrote Stanley. Reached by telephone, Stanley did not want to comment on the letter, but confirmed its contents.

But for most of the businesses that have appeared on the show, the experience has been positive. When the housewives visit a restaurant, the name of the eatery usually is shown first, in an establishing shot. Some of the restaurants won air time because the housewives really do eat there. Positano Restaurant in Wayne, for example, has been serving meals and takeout food to Danielle Staub, Caroline Manzo and other cast members before they were reality stars.

Other businesses offered their locations to Bravo in exchange for publicity. The Westin Hotel offered a hotel room and room-service meal that Bravo decided to use to portray housewife Teresa Giudice and husband Joe's 10th-anniversary celebration. The hotel did, however, request in advance that there would be no table flipping, please, a publicist for the hotel said.

Bravo declined to comment on arrangements with the businesses that appear on the show, but a spokeswoman denied that any scenes were staged.

"The show is absolutely not scripted, you can't make that kind of stuff up,'' she said.
Albert Manzo said his family wasn't looking for publicity for The Brownstone when they made the decision to appear on the show. Rather, he said, the program was viewed as a fun job for Caroline, who was facing an empty nest.
However, the show has turned out to be a publicity bonanza, said Manzo. The show, he said, has helped create a national reputation for The Brownstone. The banquet facility already was booked at capacity before the show, so it hasn't really brought in more event business. But the Manzos are hoping to use The Brownstone's new fame to launch their brand of tomato sauce.
"If you have a little bit of an aura about you because of a certain thing, like a television show, people are going to give you at least a try," Manzo said.

Kim DePaola, owner of the Posche boutique in Wayne featured in several key episodes, said the show has boosted sales on her ShopPosche website to fans all over the world. "We had a customer from Australia that bought something," DePaola said. "Who's going to know about ShopPosche in Australia" without the show, she asked.

DePaola hosted the fashion show at the North Jersey Country Club that ended with housewife hysterics, hair-pulling and assault charges. The day after the episode aired last month, "people were coming into the store in droves," she said. Many of her new customers are curiosity seekers, interested more in taking a picture with DePaola than trying on or buying clothes. But "they all buy at least a T-shirt" — shirts decorated with the Posche name that sell for $38 to $42. A year ago, she said, summer Saturdays were slow, with sometimes as few as two customers all day. "Now," she said, "Saturdays are insane."

DePaola has been rumored to be in the running to be a regular cast member on the show, but she said such a move might not be in her best interests as a store owner. "There are lots of things that the show kind of wants you to do that are good TV, but not good for me as a businesswoman, so it's a Catch-22," she said, referring to the show's fondness for drama.

The only downsides thus far have been visits from obsessed fans, and a visit from the local authorities who informed her that she could no longer serve mimosas to the TV housewives and other shoppers.

A real North Jersey business was responsible for bringing the New Jersey housewives together in the first place. Victor Castro, owner of the Chateau, The Art of Beauty salon in Franklin Lakes, learned Bravo was scouting the neighborhood for housewives and said he knew some good candidates. He invited eight women to a meet-and-greet with Bravo at the salon.

Like The Brownstone owners, Castro is hoping the show will enable him to launch a new product — a line of hair products called Chateau Mediterranean. Certain plot developments that he is not at liberty to discuss could give the Chateau more air time in the third season, a development that would greatly help the debut of a product. Bravo has not yet confirmed that there will be a new season.

Dr. Ramtin Kassir, a facial plastic surgeon at the Mona Lisa Cosmetic Surgery Center that has offices in Wayne, Ridgewood and New York City, also is hoping for some more air time in the third season.

Kassir was the first doctor housewife Danielle Staub consulted on air about her breast implant reconstruction. Kassir referred Staub to Dr. Michael Fiorillo, who performed the surgery. Kassir is the surgeon who gave cast member Ashley Holmes, daughter of housewife Jacqueline Laurita, her new nose. The operation was filmed by Bravo, but didn't air during this season. It may be featured in the third season, if the "new Ashley" becomes a theme of the show.
Both doctors have seen an increase in new clients after appearing on the show this summer. "We've had two to four new patients a week who have come in solely because of that episode," Kassir said. Fiorillo has gotten more hits on his website and been contacted by women from out-of-state, including Las Vegas showgirls unhappy with their implants, as a result of the June 21 episode.

Staub's breast reconstruction was performed by Fiorillo at a discounted rate in return for the TV exposure. Kassir said he "comped" or offered free of charge, certain services for Holmes, Laurita and other cast members in the expectation that they would be part of the show.

Offering services for free or at a reduced rate is often part of the reality deal. "Reality TV is so hot right now, and viewership numbers are so high," that offering free services in return for air time is a good deal for many businesses, said Steinreich.

When a reality star or show receives something for free, there also is less chance they will criticize the product or service, Steinreich said. "These shows are predicated on getting a lot of free stuff," he said. "If they're going to be panning something, no one's going to want to participate."
"I don't believe all exposure is good," he said. "But there's no doubt the whole reality TV segment is one of the hottest media segments today, and if you're not looking at that and exploring options for your product then you're missing out."

Reality check:
How to succeed in business on a reality TV show? Publicists and North Jersey business owners who’ve had their 15 minutes (and more) of reality-show fame share these tips to keep in mind if cable network Bravo or any "Real Housewives" come calling:

* Know the show before you agree to filming. Appearing in a show where the first season has not yet aired is risky, because you don’t know how outrageous the producers plan to make the show.

* Free reality TV publicity usually isn’t free. You will be expected to provide services free of charge in exchange for TV airtime.

* Savvy businesses can negotiate how their business will be portrayed on the show and what will be filmed. But there is no "off the record" in reality TV once the cameras start rolling.
* Many scenes involve multiple staged takes, so a three-minute scene can involve hours of shooting. And there is no guarantee your scenes will make it on the show.

*Best way to get your business on "Real Housewives"? Don’t call Bravo. Become best friends with one of the "Real Housewives."

Some of the North Jersey businesses that have appeared on "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" include:

Real businesses:

Franklin Lakes
Chateau The Art of Beauty Salon
Market Basket
Stage Left children’s clothing

Positano Restaurant
Posche Boutique
Wayne Surgical Center
Preakness Diner & Restaurant
Mona Lisa Cosmetic Surgery Center

Oakland Diner
Portobello Restaurant

Lincoln Park
202 Italian Bistro

The Abbey

L.A. Boxing
Woodland Park
A&S Pork Store

Artistic Academy of Hair & Aesthetics

Cedar Grove
Lu Nello’s

Little Falls
Perfect Shine Car Wash

Sweet & Sassy salon

Hackensack University Medical Center

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