Md. businesses' products make it big on hit show

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News,Business

FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — When Carol Wilson, co-owner of Elk Run Vineyards, received a call last year to provide all the wine for the second season of Netflix's "House of Cards," she first worried what it might cost.

In the end, the production was only interested in the winery's empty bottles, labels and foils.

The actors aren't consuming real alcohol during taping, after all.

"That hadn't dawned on me before," Wilson said this month.

Her next question was just how the show would turn juice into a realistic-looking version of the Elk Run's Liberty Tavern Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.

"Oh, we've done this before," the show's representative responded.

Trailers for the show have offered glimpses of Elk Run labels and other Frederick County products the show has snapped up since last spring.

Eagle-eyed viewers will be able to spot everything from American Indian jewelry and antique Chinese wheelbarrows to window privacy screens bought from Frederick County businesses.

"I'm glad we had some great local products being highlighted," said state Sen. David Brinkley. "We've got some great cottage industries in Frederick and in Maryland."

This boost to local business is one reason it's important to incentivize the film industry, said Brinkley, R-Frederick.

Since producers of the 2006 movie "Annapolis" eschewed the namesake city to shoot in Philadelphia, state leaders have worked harder to draw filmmakers to Maryland, Brinkley said.

Lawmakers in 2011 dedicated $7.5 million annually to tax relief for film producers. Last year, they allowed up to $25 million in incentives, and lawmakers are considering $11 million in tax breaks for the coming fiscal year.

House of Cards has received $11.6 million in tax credit for its first season alone, reported Jack Gerbes, director of the Maryland Film Office. The returns on this investment can range from job creation to business for local companies, according to Gerbes.

"We like to see them employ local talent ... highlight Maryland products and have those jobs and payroll come back here," said Brinkley, who has supported the tax incentives.

Statewide, the first season of "House of Cards" has generated an estimated economic impact of $138 million, Gerbes indicated.

Though much of this money goes to businesses near the city of Baltimore and Harford County shooting locations, the economic benefits spill over into other areas of the state, said Carl Glorioso, director of the Frederick Film Office.

Set decorators for "House of Cards" come to Frederick to peruse antique shops, and when Glorioso knows the show's producers are in town, he makes sure to recommend the best local eateries.

In the past four years, productions filmed completely or partially in Frederick County have generated more than $500,000 in economic activity for the region and state, Glorioso estimated.

Frederick County has been the backdrop for films like "The Blair Witch Project" and "Elf-Man." Film companies have also come to town to shoot recreation scenes for shows like "Nightmare Next Door" and "Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry?"

"House of Cards" producers have scouted locations in Frederick County to double for Camp David, but none of the sites has panned out so far, Glorioso said.

He said he is hopeful about some production in the county during the show's coming season.

Sen. Ron Young and Delegate Michael Hough, R- Frederick, are both "House of Cards" fans, though they said real-life politicians are less nefarious than the show portrays. Young, D-Frederick, said he recently rented the first season and watched all 13 episodes within two weeks.

Hough will recognize a prominent set this season. In June, production crews transformed Maryland's House of Delegates chamber to resemble the U.S. Senate.

In season two, the Underwoods, the political powerhouse couple at the center of the show's plot line, continue their ruthless rise to power, all while battling threats past and present to avoid losing everything.

The show has already been renewed for a third season.

Being tied to the show's production has turned some local business owners into fans.

Paul and Joan Berkowitz, owners of Great Stuff by Paul in Frederick, said they make it a practice to watch the movies and shows their products are featured in.

"It's fun," Paul Berkowitz said. "All of the sudden, I'll say, 'Hey, there's my watering can or my buckets.'"

For this season of "House of Cards," Berkowitz sold an antique Chinese wheelbarrow that was specially requested by Kevin Spacey, according to the production assistants who came to his warehouse on East Sixth Street.

"Somebody's going to be working in a garden, they told me," he said.

Berkowitz also sold watering cans, buckets and other garden accessories, he said.

Lauren Huyser works in customer service and online sales for Decorative Films LLC on Cornell Place in Frederick. She said her co-workers were excited when the order for House of Cards came in.

"The majority of our office watches the show, and they all love it," she said.

A Christmas card from the production was a nice touch on top of the orders, she said.

Decorative Films has seen a spike in Hollywood-related sales in the past year as their films have been featured in everything from Beyonce photo shoots to Late Night with Jimmy Fallon sets and other television shows, she said.

"It's pretty neat seeing our product in a show," Huyser said. "It's kind of surreal."

Ben Madrid, owner of Santa Fe Trading Co. in New Market, said he's interested to see where the show may be going with an apparent plot line related to American Indians.

Madrid said production workers came to his shop twice to buy and rent an assortment of jewelry, accessories and decor.

"The baskets and the pottery, I think, will be a lot easier to see on screen," he said. "It will be interesting. I can't wait to see."

Among the more easily spotted items he sold will be a large brown glazed pot with a black hummingbird design and squared edges, he said.

During the two visits by show assistants, they also picked up some personal items, boosting business, Madrid said.

"It was all very exciting," he said.

Carol Wilson said she just finished the first season and is planning watch parties at the vineyard for episodes of the second season.

She's hoping the wine's appearance on the show can create some new fans for it as well.

When she packaged the empty materials for the show, she also threw in a few full bottles, she said.

"I'd be interested to know who got those bottles," Wilson said with a laugh. "I think it's really cool that they went to such trouble to feature local purveyors."

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Information from: The Frederick (Md.) News-Post, http://www.fredericknewspost.com

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