Arrested Development and the Frozen Banana Economy

Newport Beach frozen banana sellers hope the Arrested Development revamp boosts sales.

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Regular viewers of "Arrested Development" may think the Bluth's Frozen Banana is just another of the show's oddball inventions, along with Teamocil and the Cornballer. But frozen, chocolate-dipped bananas were a mainstay of Balboa Island long before Arrested Development set its fictional banana stand there, and local sellers say the show's Netflix resurrection might boost their sales.

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Helen Connolly, 76, has owned Sugar 'N Spice for 18 years. The small Balboa Island shop, established in the 1940s, claims to have originated the frozen banana. Connolly says she thinks the popular sitcom has boosted her sales and that the show's comeback will help even more.

"We've had a few people ask, 'Is this the "Arrested Development" banana?,' and we are. And I think it will increase [our sales]," she says.

Just a few doors down on Marine Avenue, Connolly's rival, Dad's Donut Shop and Bakery, also claims to be home to the "original frozen banana." Dad's manager Vann Yam says the shop has been posting strong growth in recent years, though the 23-year employee isn't so sure that the Bluths deserve credit. Rather, she explains that it's because Dad's is the true banana baron on Balboa Island: "Our banana's been here forever," she explains, though she says customers do often reference the show. "They ask, 'Is the show based on you guys?'" Yam says, adding that she anticipates getting that question even more once the new season is released.

The Bluth family's frozen banana stand figures heavily into the beloved sitcom that was canceled in 2006 after a two-and-a-half-season run on Fox. Now, after seven years, the show is getting a much-anticipated comeback on Netflix. The Bluth banana stand has been a key figure in promoting that comeback, traveling from city to city and even getting a (fake) page on Seamless, a food delivery website.

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There's no way of knowing exactly how much "Arrested Development" has boosted the stores' popularity, but a glance at the stores' Yelp pages indicates that the show has given the stores at least a few extra customers over the years.

"The only reason I think we stopped here was because of 'Arrested Development,'" reads one review on Sugar 'N Spice's Yelp page.

"Who am I kidding, I got [a banana] because of the 'Arrested Development' reference," says another review from 2012.

"I got a chocolate covered banana in peanuts. … Then, I walked down to the pier to look for Gob Bluth's yacht," reads one review of Dad's.

Connolly believes her store inspired the show's creators in part because the Bluth Banana Stand has used the same logo of a running banana that is emblazoned on her store's awning.

When she first discovered this, Connolly says she was ready to alert the show's famous executive producer.

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"I said, 'I'll call Ron Howard,'" Connolly says, adding that she had planned out what she would say to the Oscar-winning director: "Either give me some advertising, or we'll make a deal money-wise."

Connolly says she never made that call because she realized that her banana logo wasn't original, either – she remembers it being clip art and figured she couldn't trademark it.

Which is not to say she's letting an opportunity go waste. Connolly says she plans to capitalize on the new "Arrested Development" season by making her own banana stand t-shirts bearing both the logo and an advertisement for her restaurant. Meanwhile, she hopes the Bluths have a good second run.

"I'm just glad they're back, and I hope they're successful," she says.

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