CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - A big gamble for a struggling Hamilton County businessman has paid-off big time. It is the one-year anniversary of a court battle to keep his buxom mannequin mascot out front of his Reading barbeque store.
KT Barbeque owner Kenny Tessel said his business was down 40-percent. That was before his sales got a big boost from a busty roadside mannequin.
When the economy went bust, Kenny Tessel said he had to think "outside the box."
"My business isn't from Reading," Tessel said. "It's the commuter traffic that's going through into the wealthier neighborhoods like Wyoming and Blue Ash and Evendale."
Tessel needed an eye-catching mascot, a way to get those folks to stop and they did.
"It wasn't going to be a pig," Tessel said. "It wasn't going to be a cow."
But people sure had a cow over, "From the catalog book she's WL-45," said Tessel. "I know that sex sells and that was it."
Tessel found her in a catalog where he got his restaurant equipment.
"I'm gonna get her and I'm gonna stick her outside with a sign on and I'm just gonna see what happens," he said. "I know I'm gonna piss off some people."
Oh he did, with provocative outfits for nearly every season.
"What they found offensive was her boobs," Tessel said. "Lets just be honest, her boobs are big."
"They said you saw too much side boob, too much under-boob, too much top of boob, they were boob happy ya' know," Tessel said. "It was unbelievable."
Barbie has become somewhat of a media darling and like many celebrities, she's had her share of death threats, and just in case something happens to the real McCoy, she's got a stand-in, standing at the ready, inside the restaurant.
"And the woman called up she was so incensed," Tessel said. "I mean literally incensed, she said she was going to drive up on the curb and run her over and kill the mannequin."
Tessel said she's brought in 3 to 5 new customers every single day this past year.
"First week I had over a hundred new customers," Tessel said. "Second week that doubled. It was amazing, they were just coming in, they didn't even know what I sold."
She's the best employee he's ever had. She never gets sick, always shows up and clearly this is a story with legs.
"What's the furthest away someone has come? Australia," Tessel said. "They saw the news article down there they planned their trip, they wanted to take pictures of the mannequin."
Tessel said his business is up and he has cut his store debt by 75 percent. He's almost out of debt in only 12 months and he's been in business for 5 years. Tessel said about 25-percent of the curious tri-staters who come in, become regular customers.
Barbie gets rented out a lot for proms and parties, but Tessel said he won't rent her out to single men.