NEW YORK Since the final episode aired on May 6, 2004, Friends has remained largely relegated to reruns with nary a reunion in sight. That all changed on September 17 when Warner Brothers Television Group and Warner Brothers Consumer Products, in partnership with the Eight O’Clock Coffee company, debuted a monthlong pop-up replica of the Central Perk coffee shop to mark the Emmy award-winning sitcom’s 20th anniversary. More than 1,455 customers visited on opening day alone.
Erected at 199 Lafayette Street in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, the 1,277-square-foot pop-up, which took two weeks to build, was the brainchild of the Warner Brothers Television marketing and Warner Brothers Television creative services department. Source Marketing executed the overall build and decor of the shrine-cum-museum. The refuge featured a gift shop, memorabilia—Phoebe’s guitar, an invitation to Monica and Chandler’s wedding, and Joey’s ceramic white dog, among others—and, most importantly, free coffee.
A variety of unique—and whimsical—experiences were offered for both fans and novices alike: visitors could sit on the show’s pumpkin-color couch for 22 seconds and have their pictures taken for sofa selfies or order coffee off the famous Central Perk chalkboard. And the younger fans, many of whom had barely been born when the show was first broadcast, got the sample a special “Central Perk” roast developed especially for the occasion.
Throughout the month, there were also special appearances by Friends actor James Michael Tyler, perhaps better known as Gunther the barista; in-store performances akin to Phoebe’s improvised “Smelly Cat”; DVD and coffee roast giveaways; and Friends-theme merchandise available for purchase. Fittingly, the pop-up was open for National Coffee Day, September 29.
Warner Brothers executives deemed the marketing exercise an overwhelming success, evident not only by the daily four-block-long lines and visitors hailing from Australia to China to Germany and the Philippines, but by their amassed statistics. In total, 40,087 cups of Eight O’Clock coffee were served (caramel macchiato the overwhelming favorite); 27,189 sofa selfies were taken; 1,823 fans visited per day on average; and six couples were engaged on site.
Social-media-wise, the Central Perk pop-up was mentioned more than 7,800 times in the first 24 hours of opening, up 117 percent from the prior day, according to Bottlenose.