Deka Lash attracts cast of characters
Deka Lash is named after founder Jennifer Blair’s (center) two daughters, Karli (left) and Demi.
John Bianco answers the phone in his thick Brooklyn accent—“How ya doin?’”—and the Deka Lash franchisee in New Jersey sounds exactly like his memorable character in “The Sopranos,” Gerry Torciano.
“I get stereotyped in mob characters a lot. Growing up in Brooklyn, these characters are in my back pocket,” he says. “I do play a good bad guy.”
An acting career has up times and down, so when he got back together with a long-ago sweetheart, Evelyn Cuciti, they decided to open a Deka Lash franchise, which has 52 eyelash extension units open after launching in January 2016.
“It’s time to do something for ourselves as well,” says Cuciti, and she liked the family feel and support they felt from Michael and Jennifer Blair, founders of Deka Lash. “They held our hands through the whole process. Any questions we’ve had, they’re with us.”
Adds Bianco, “Well, you talk about a complete 180,” from his acting career. One of the attractions was that Deka Lash was a young brand. “Getting in early, listen, it’s the old risk/reward. Getting in at the beginning, we stand to gain the most,” he says.
Michael Blair says the two founders didn’t have any franchise experience in the beginning, but Michael had started and sold a mortgage operation and then a software company. “I guess entrepreneurship has always been in my DNA,” he says.
Jennifer Blair, meanwhile, started an independent teeth-whitening business and then added eyelash extensions. “It was probably only a few months of doing the eyelashes that I realized it was much more of a repeat business than the teeth-whitening,” and Deka Lash was born, named after their two daughters, Demi and Karli. It takes about $250,000 to get a franchise open and operating.
“Sopranos” actor John Bianco and girlfriend Evelyn Cuciti are Deka Lash ‘zees in New Jersey.
Robert and Moriah Brookshier are Deka Lash franchisees in Omaha, where they have one unit open and an area development agreement to build five units total between Omaha and Des Moines. Robert was a nuclear submarine officer who got out of the U.S. Navy in 2000. Moriah is a nurse by trade who earned a master’s in healthcare administration and was recruited into an architecture firm that served medical buildings.
When asked what part of her background translates to running a Deka Lash operation, she doesn’t hesitate. “Oh my gosh, all of them. It’s learning how to deal with people, be a professional, have relationships with customers and clients.”
Robert credits their time spent with FranChoice, a franchise consulting firm, in helping them choose a brand. They were asked to “picture” themselves in their new franchise, and did they see a storefront, a home business, a warehouse model? “On the spot we didn’t know what the answer was. We picked one in each of those categories, so we were looking at a pool cleaning company, a restoration company, and then Deka Lash,” he says. They were counseled to try “not to get favorites as you go along,” but look at each objectively.
As for Bianco, the “Sopranos” star, and Cuciti, they met when they were both stockbrokers about 30 years ago, dated for a bit and then went their separate ways. A couple of years ago, “I decided to look her up. She was always my mother’s favorite so I poked around,” says Bianco. “She was watching ‘The Sopranos,’ but she didn’t recognize me.”
Asked to end the interview with his favorite line from one of his characters, in full mobster accent, he doesn’t hesitate. “The one thing that always comes back to me, when I’m at the table and I finally get killed in ‘The Sopranos,’” he says. His last words, in that glorious accent? “Where is the f***ing waiter, on sabbatical?” and the next thing you know his face is on his plate, a goner.