Jukebox joint called Pop’s Diner sparks nostalgia-soaked success in St. John’s
ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — If a yearning still exists for pomade-slicked hair, Audrey Hepburn-style, polka dot cocktail dresses and Chuck Berry blasting out of a jukebox, the answer to that craving is at Pop’s Diner in Churchill Square.
Serving up classic items like hot dogs, burgers, fries and hand-spun milkshakes, the restaurant that opened just under two months ago is already consistently packed, despite little investment in traditional advertising.
“We already have regulars that come three times a week and they come with a different group of friends every time, and then their friends bring friends,” said Terri-Lynne Meadows, who owns the restaurant with her partner and chef, Perseverance “Percy” Meadows.
It’s an idea that’s been percolating for many years, but which really started taking form in October 2021.
‘It brings them back’
Music was like a religion in Percy’s family.
“My dad said Jimi Hendrix was a God,” he said.
Customers will hear everything from the Everly Brothers, Ray Charles and Elvis to The Beatles and even the The B-52’s, who started in the late ‘70s, but whose music and style are kitschy, magnified throwbacks to early rock ‘n’ roll, rockabilly and low-budget motion pictures of the era.
“That just seems to be my favourite era in time,” Percy said. “And there was nothing like it in the city, so we just thought that it would be an easy niche to fill.”
It’s meant to be family-friendly and accomodating to all ages, but the older crowd really seem to dig it.
“It brings them back,” Percy said.
After walking around Churchill Square while they waited for a table during a packed lunch service mid-week, George and Bertie Brown and Alvina March of Trinity Bay finally took their seats in the booth.
“I got the giggles,” March said.
They wouldn’t be sharing a milkshake that day, but they were looking forward to some good food before heading back around the bay, they said.
Food and film
Other than a few items, everything — from the turkey, beef brisket, buns, bread and fries — are all made in-house daily.
“It’s simple food made really well,” Percy said. “And it’s at a price that you can go two or three times a week.”
The hand-spun milkshakes made out front are a large part of the restaurant’s concept and atmosphere.
“We want people to hear it, we want people to see it,” Percy said.
Despite being only opened for a short time, the restaurant has already been used to shoot a film.
“A guy was walking by and he just (asked), ‘Can we film a movie in here?’” Percy said.
They closed for a day to let them film the made-for-TV movie, which they believe will have about a 40-million-person reach. Details on the film, called “Dangerous Connections,” are still under wraps, but the filmmakers even changed their script to name the pie shop in the film Pop’s Diner.
“We were brand new and it didn’t hurt us to be closed for a day,” Terri-Lynne said.
“Anything filmed in Newfoundland, Newfoundlander’s love it.”
They’ll be bringing back signed headshots for them to put up on the wall, as well, Percy said.