For the past five seasons, the world has laughed, cried and cringed with the housemates of "Jersey Shore." The MTV reality series turned pop culture phenomenon has made "Snooki" and "The Situation" household names and "GTL" and "DTF" part of the national conversation. But for Danny Merk, the real-life boss for this very special cast of characters, the show has been one thing -- great for business.Merk, co-owner of the Shore Store
, where the "Jersey Shore" crew works during their time in Seaside Heights, N.J., has certainly had his share of HR challenges -- with his on-camera "employees" sleeping on the job, drinking on the job and simply running out on the job. The headaches may not seem worth a little face time on TV, but like an increasing number of business owners, Merk (who owns the boardwalk T-shirt shop with his brother Paul) has found that prominent placement in a reality show can be surreal for the bottom line
.How did you get involved with the show?
It just came out of nowhere. Someone was scouting locations for a reality TV show, asked if I'd mind if they took some pictures of the house I had lived in for 10 years and then they asked if they could rent my house out for a month. This was just talk at first. I thought, "Nothing's going to happen." But then suddenly, they wanted me to move, and I moved 10 years of our lives in a matter of one night. And then, coincidentally, they asked to see the boardwalk, and I said, "Let's just cut through my store." And they said, 'I love this place. Let's give them jobs.' I was reluctant about that at first, but then I thought, "What the hell? Give it a try."So is there any downside to having your business on a reality show? Do you ever wish the TV cameras would go away?
No, it's really helped out my business. Just about everyone who comes in at least buys a T-shirt. There's no downside. Oh, once in a while someone will scream something rude as they go by the store, and sometimes I've had spray paint on the front of my door, but the town is busier. My next door neighbors, which are an arcade and a pizza house, are seeing record revenue. The parking lot is always full. The town's making money. There are fresh coats of paint everywhere, and new fencing has gone up, so I can only say that ...