At a first glance through the window to the Happily Ever After Dessert Café, the venue could easily be mistaken for a movie-memorabilia shop. Just as the thralls of collectible cinema knick knacks that peer through the window suggest, the eatery, located at 230 Market St., is just as much a tribute to cinema as it is a cafe.
Happily Ever After, which opened in May 2013, is a cafe and frozen yogurt hybrid that offers an array of soft-serve desserts in addition to bubble teas, coffee, soups and even a few movie-inspired paninis. Owner and die-hard movie buff Jihoon Ha incorporated a pop-culture theme in the restaurant. Ha spent his childhood in Korea and said he vividly remembers watching movies in his childhood that fueled his passion for motion pictures.
“When I was a kid I always watched Hollywood movies,” Ha said. “At the time there was no multiplex, so one theater had one screen. I had to wait several hours to just get into the movie theater.”
In the cafe, customers are greeted by a sizeable model of Star Wars’ Millennium Falcon hanging from the ceiling, among numerous other cinema-inspired collectibles belonging to Ha. Ha designed the space, which is filled to the brim with movie quotes, figurines and references to the world of film. A life-size R2-D2 sits beside the cafe’s daily special board, while scattered posters hang over a table that offers oversized keyboard keys in place of traditional seats.
Employee and 2014 Temple film alumnus Graham Cooper said he shares Ha’s passion for movies, and said the cafe’s respect for all genres of film is a huge draw for customers.
“I think it’s an interesting mix of movie themes that we have,” Cooper said. “We have the mainstream, super pop-culture films, and then we also have some smaller more internationally known films and then the cult films. I think those are the ones that people appreciate the most, when they get the joke of the cult films.”
Keeping in line with the cafe’s motion-picture theme, the menu also boasts a handful of dishes inspired by pop-culture. Among the bunch is Butterbeer from the Harry Potter series and a spicy jalapeño-filled panini cleverly named the Cuban Nacho Libre.
Further adding to the cinematic atmosphere, fluctuating movie soundtracks are in constant rotation within the cafe.
For Ha, small touches like witty menu names and music give life to the overall experience, which he said he believes is among the most important part of any business.
“I like the movies because of the experience,” Ha said. “It’s totally different from just watching movies on DVD or Blu-ray. I think that gave me some ideas about this cafe. It’s not just about drinking coffee or eating food, its more about the experience.”
At the end of the day, Ha said he draws the most satisfaction from the positive responses of his patrons.
“A happy customer is the best customer,” Ha said. “This is a happy place, I want to make customers happy. If the customer’s happy, I’m happy.”
Eamon Dreisbach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.