Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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May 8, 2013

Reality TV's new stars: Small businesses

NEW YORK (AP) — There's no business like small business.

Mix the high stakes of running a small business with a dash of family drama and throw in a camera crew and you get hit reality television shows such as "Pawn Stars," ''Welcome to Sweetie Pie's" and "Duck Dynasty."

Turning small business owners into stars has become a winning formula for television producers, but some businesses featured in them are cashing in, too. Sales explode after just a few episodes air, transforming these nearly unknown small businesses into household names. In addition to earning a salary from starring in the shows, some small business owners are benefiting financially from opening gift shops that sell souvenirs or getting involved in other ventures that spawn from their new-found fame.

Sales at Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas are five times higher than they were before "Pawn Stars" first aired in 2009. More people are pouring into the St. Louis restaurant featured in "Welcome to Sweetie Pie's" to eat its jumbo-sized fried chicken wings and six-cheese macaroni and cheese. And Duck Commander, seen in "Duck Dynasty," is having trouble controlling the crowds in front of its headquarters in the small city of West Monroe, La.

"Sometimes it's hard getting from the truck to the front door," says Willie Robertson, who owns Duck Commander with his father and stars in the A&E series with his extended family.

It's a big change for a company that sells duck calls out of a part-brick, part-cinder block warehouse on a dry, dead-end country road. Duck hunters use the whistles, which mimic duck sounds, to attract their prey.

Since "Duck Dynasty" began airing in March 2012, Robertson finds at least 70 people waiting in front of the warehouse every morning asking for autographs and photos. Neighbors have complained about the mobs and the police have been called.

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