TAMPA — Talk about a sneak attack.
Marianne Banales was running her hugely popular Rocket Fizz candy and nostalgia shop on Dale Mabry Highway when she was approached by a television producer. The producer pitched her the idea of doing a show about a new employee’s misadventures at Rocket Fizz, which has more than 60 franchises nationwide and three in the Tampa Bay area.
Banales, who lives in Westchase, watched as the employee bumbled around, struggled to learn to the way Banales runs her business, and was generally a flop.
As it turned out, the bumbling employee was Robert Powell, the president of Rocket Fizz, and the show was actually “Undercover Boss,” a popular show that runs on CBS. It was aired for the first time on Jan. 23, and the lines the next day at Rocket Fizz were huge. And they haven’t gotten any shorter. Banales has become a Dale Mabry celebrity.
It all started a month ago when she was contacted about doing a reality show. Powell came into the store in disguise and appeared clueless and, as the cameras rolled, Banales just went along, not having any idea that she was training her boss.
“I thought this was for a reality show about somebody trying to get a job,” Banales said. “I had no idea. They did a great job of tricking me.”
Her “boss” actually had some good ideas. He taught Banales a point-of-sales system that she has been following.
“He did everything here,” Banales said. “He cleaned the bathrooms, he did everything that any of the employees do. I started to wonder, but I thought this was for some kind of food show.”
Banales had met Powell before but, thanks to the disguise, had no idea who he was while he worked at the shop. She even thought the new potential employee was not going to work out. She had talks with him and knew this was a bad mix.
“I never got angry but I had to cringe at some of the things I saw,” she said. “We had no idea.”
Once Banales finally learned what was going on, she was shocked. Especially when she was asked what her dream vacation might be. When she answered that a trip to Spain was her ultimate dream — well, you can figure out the rest of the story.
Banales never meant to get into the candy business. She was actually an optometrist before she sold her practice.
“I just wanted to do something fun,” she said. “You don’t know how long you have, let’s have some fun while you can.”
Rocket Fizz is located at 14365 North Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa.