ROYERSFORD >> Steve Barzousky had no idea what he was getting into when Renee Maloney walked through the doors while cameras were rolling on a hit reality TV show.
“She was horrible,” he said. “I would have never hired her.”
Viewers can find out what happened as an upcoming episode of the hit series “Undercover Boss” features Barzousky, the local franchise co-owner of Painting with a Twist of Royersford, unknowingly working alongside Maloney, Painting with a Twist’s co-founder and chief financial officer.
The episode, airing locally Wednesday, Jan. 4, at 8 p.m. on CBS3 KYW-TV, includes several scenes at Painting with a Twist of Royersford, located at 70 Buckwalter Road Unit 411, as Barzousky tries to teach Maloney the ropes in owning and operating a studio of her own.
The reality series, now in its eighth season, follows high-level executives as they slip anonymously into the rank-and-file of their own organizations. Each week, a different leader will sacrifice the comfort of their corner office for an undercover mission to examine the inner workings of their operation.
Painting with a Twist turns guests into artists as they paint on blank canvases while following step-by-step instructions from local painters and drinking wine at the same time. During the episode, Maloney works as an art instructor, studio manager, warehouse supervisor and franchisee.
Barzousky says working with the character Maloney pretends to play in the episode wasn’t easy.
“She was this quiet, shy, introverted person,” he said. “When people come in, we are energetic, boisterous and smiling. People are coming in to have a good time.”
Barzousky has co-owned the Royersford location with his wife, Karina, since they opened the location in January 2015. He said the show’s producers pitched them the idea of filming a reality TV contest for family businesses before the episode went to lens in September.
“We thought it was cool,” he said. “We could show off the artists, show how good they are, show what my wife has done with the studio, how she runs it, how clean it is. It sounded fun.”
Both he and Karina had met their undercover boss before, he said. While her disguise certainly fooled him, the producers made sure to steer Maloney away from Karina so as not to blow her cover.
“She would have figured out Renee but I did not,” Barzousky admitted. “I didn’t have any idea that it was her. At the reveal that’s when I knew. I didn’t put two and two together.”
Maloney called the experience a kick and said one of her favorite moments came as she struggled to use the computer. While she normally wears reading glasses in real life, her character wears fake glasses, which made it difficult for her to read the computer screen.
“And (Barzousky’s) looking at me like ‘you have glasses on,’” she said. “But I had to play through it.”
While she made life difficult for him, Maloney said Barzousky was a great spokesman for the company.
“He was an incredible representative for Painting with a Twist and what we look for,” she said. “His enthusiasm, that persona he exemplified, is what we train.”
Maloney and Cathy Deano began Painting with a Twist in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, as a way to help their New Orleans-area neighbors forget about the storm’s devastation. Since the business was founded nearly a decade ago, Painting with a Twist has become one of the fastest growing franchises in the country with 320 studios in 36 states.
With the episode, Maloney said she was excited to see just how passionate employees within the company are when it comes to making the customer experience memorable – from quality control of canvases in their own warehouse to greeting guests at the door when it’s their time to paint. Throughout the episode’s journey, she gets a first-hand look at the personal and professional struggles of franchisees and their employees.
“It was an opportunity to see if what Cathy (Deano) and I started was being implemented across the board,” she said. “The passion for customer service and the customer experience.”
The experience from the show taught him to be more vocal about some of the difficulties of being a franchise owner, and to not just “go with the flow,” in order to see some positive changes, Barzousky said. However, he was glad to hear his business is doing a lot of things right and sets a high standard that others can follow.
“It’s a standard we’re not going to give up,” he said. “Our goal is for every person who comes in to make it feel like it’s their first time.”
It also gave him encouragement as he and Karina put the finishing touches on their second Painting with a Twist location, tentatively scheduled to open in Exeter Township in late January. The couple plans to hold a viewing party at the business when it airs Jan. 4.