The first licensed Central Perk outside of the US is in Singapore.
Lim Jit Min, 28, is an avid fan of Friends and has watched the American sitcom almost 20 times.
His family are all big fans of the hit series, which ran for 10 seasons from 1994 to 2004.
“I still love it. The show may have ended 12 years ago but it’s still incredible,” said Mr Lim, the man who introduced the Friends themed café Central Perk to Singapore in Nov 2016.
Starring Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, David Schwimmer, Matt LeBlanc and Matthew Perry, Friends follows a group of close friends through the ups and downs in their lives. The show attracted such a large audience globally that the 6-person cast were each paid a staggering US$1 million per episode from 2002 onwards.
To offer an opportunity for fellow Friends’ followers to relive the phenomenon, Mr Lim has opened Singapore’s first licensed Friends-inspired Central Perk café at Central Mall, Clarke Quay.
“I had the idea for six years but I was always worried that I would not be able to do justice to the show,” he said. “I was also worried that Singaporeans would not care about the show as much as I did so the café could become a flop.”
Mr Lim eventually mustered enough courage to get things started. He left his job as a headhunter in Apr 2016 and started testing the receptivity to his café idea on Indiegogo, a crowd-funding website.
“We really put the idea up on Indiegogo to gauge how interested Singaporeans would be in this café,” he said.
It turned out that many Singaporeans still recall the show fondly. In fact, the support for the café was so overwhelming that Mr Lim and his team were able to secure enough funding to get the café up and running well before their anticipated opening date in March 2017.
“We actually only took 2 months to design the space and got everything in,” said Ms Judi Lee, 25, the interior designer who worked with Mr Lim. She added that all furniture in the café was custom-made and imported from overseas.
There was however a brief online spat ahead of the café’s opening. After the team announced their $1,000 membership fee on Facebook, a good number of fans were up in arms over the steep price tag.
Mr Lim said he had good reasons to raise the bar of entry.
“The membership fee is there to show who the true fans are… It’s there to see who really wants to contribute and who loves the show enough to want to support this venture,” he justified.
While young fans of Friends might not be able to afford the membership status yet, they could visit the café as walk-in customers.
“I can see why people would pay to feel special in this experience,” said Azra Rauff, 20.
“A lot of us grew up watching Friends with our parents and we can all relate to the characters in the show in one way or another. So this café just feels like we’ve been taken back to our childhood,” he said.
Old is gold for 20-year-old Jordan Chia too.
“Old shows will always be the best because they bring back nostalgic memories,” said the Temasek Polytechnic student, adding that “the humor in Friends is still way funnier than some of the shows nowadays”.
Address: #01-01 Central Mall, 1 Magazine Road Singapore 059567
Opening Hours: 10am – 10pm (Tues – Sun), Closed Mon