Glenn Stearns Talks the Effect of Coronavirus as 'Undercover Billionaire' Returns to Erie 1 Year After His Incognito Experiment (Exclusive)

A year after Stearns Lending founder Glenn Stearns ditched his name and his fortune to see if he could recreate success anonymously by starting a small business in 90 days out of nothing, the Undercover Billionaire star is bringing the cameras back to Erie, Pennsylvania to check in on Underdog BBQ and the people who helped him turn his dream into reality. Ahead of the premiere of the one-hour special, Undercover Billionaire: Return to Erie, airing Tuesday, Aug. 18, Stearns opened up on PopCulture @ Home about how things have changed for Underdog's team since we last saw them.

Stearns' time in Erie didn't come to an end after the cameras stopped rolling, he revealed, but his grand return one year later came after he was locked down on the west coast amid the coronavirus pandemic. It hasn't been an easy time for any small business as COVID-19 ravages the country, but restaurants have especially had to get creative to survive the new regulations and limitations. In Erie County, for example, restaurants are operating at 25 percent capacity inside, Stearns explained, giving Underdog a whole new challenge to overcome just months after opening.

"The world has changed, and I can't feed people, or I can't keep the lights open at 25 percent capacity. So what do we do?" he recalled thinking. "We needed to think about how we were going to do takeout differently, how we were going to feed the people that go to the beach right down the street from us, which is a couple of million people who go there." Setting up picnic packs and redoing the outdoor dining area, Stearns and the rest of the Underdog team have been working tirelessly to keep things going during the economic downturn. "You just can't sit back in any business, I'm not just talking restaurants, and say, 'Poor me,'" the businessman advised. "You have to now go, 'OK, my world's changed and what am I going to do to not only survive, but to thrive?'"

Erie is a town that has dealt with economic loss before with the loss of General Electric just a few years ago, but it's created a strong small business sector with which Stearns has fallen in love, inspiring him to lend a hand even outside his own restaurant. "I've always had a thing for the young and the small entrepreneur, and so watching them get also brought to their knees in the last six months has been very difficult," he said of his return. "So I came back, we did the show that is airing. But I also said I'd like to go out and help some of these other small businesses. So I've stayed, I'm still here because I'm helping a few more. And who knows, that might even end up on television here in the fall, you never know."


"I did this because I really believe that in this country, if you have a dream, that it can come true," he continued. "And we came here and then I just fell in love with the people. They're hardworking. They really want to see Erie do well." With Undercover Billionaire's spotlight on the local economy, Stearns said he's seen "a lot of people realize that maybe they should stop the old patterns and try to do new things and take a chance in life," adding that it has been a "reward that I didn't expect to have at all."

Check in with Erie's small business community and Underdog BBQ a year on during Undercover Billionaire: Return to Erie, airing Tuesday, Aug. 18 at 9 p.m. ET on Discovery. For more about Discovery's latest programming from PopCulture, click here.