Marianne Banales was probably having as ordinary of a day in July as you can when you own a colorful soda and candy shop called Rocket Fizz.
That’s when Robert Powells, the president of Rocket Fizz, visited the store incognito to film an episode of “Undercover Boss.”
“It was crazy because they tell you it’s totally for something else,” said Banales.
Banales is the owner of three locations of Rocket Fizz. including Carrollwood (14365 N. Dale Mabry, Tampa), Lakeland and Sarasota.
The stores offer 115 flavors of the 500 sodas Rocket Fizz makes including key lime pie, bacon, s’mores, red licorice, cinnamon, rocket fuel, strawberries & cream and “martian poop.” They also stock nostalgic candy and gag gifts.
The boss portrayed himself as “Lee” and claimed he was there in a competition to learn what it was like to own a franchise.
“He really fumbled around” said Banales.
Powells’ appearance was altered with a wig, added facial hair and glasses.
“They had him kind of goofy and I thought ‘oh my gosh this guy is not going to make it.’ ” said Banales.
“We had met before so he wouldn’t look me in the eye. I thought ‘this guy won’t make eye contact.’ ”
She later found out Powells was afraid to make eye contact because he didn’t want to be recognized by her.
Three or four days later Banales was flown to Los Angeles, seemingly to give feedback about “Lee’s” performance.
“The guy sits down and he said he was Rob and I freaked out. My mind starts racing and thinking ‘what did I say?’ ” said Banales.
The store owner said “it was an amazing experience” and the boss got to see what the stores need. She thinks one of the ideas she mentioned may end up helping the other franchise locations.
Banales couldn’t reveal what her prize for participating ultimately was until after the show aired but said her connection to Powells was “very emotional.”
“For me there were a few moments ... we’ve both had our own tragedies. There was a bond formed and we became very close,” Powells said.
Powells visited three other cities of the 56 current franchises during filming.
“What I wanted to do was get ahead of the growth and anticipate challenges going forward,” Powells said of his motivation to participate in the program. “Our inventory system was rather archaic and we knew we needed to upgrade to accelerate growth. I learned we needed to make it a priority when visiting Marianne’s shop. I think it saved us about about two years of time doing that by going undercover.
“I found it profoundly rewarding personally as well as professionally.”
“Undercover Boss” airs tonight at 8 p.m. on CBS.