Santa Clarita - As I walk into the indoor entertainment facility at Mountasia Family Fun Center, Farrell's is the first thing I see. The parlour has a different style from the original parlours; the exterior of the old parlours resembled a showboat, while Santa Clarita has what one person described to me as a "Philadelphia town hall" look. Liberal use of beadboard on exterior walls, and wide crown molding make for an old-fashioned look. Above one interior entrance to the parlour, wallpaper has imprinted images from old menus. This style is designed to trigger memories of the old Farrell's within the minds of visitors.
Farrell's Dining Room and Party Room
Inside the parlour, I am drawn to the combination Fountain counter/candy store. The fountain has a glass front so guests can more easily watch as their sundaes are made. The workflow in the fountain was chaotic and constrained - I spent a fair amount of time discussing this with the folks. The candy section is minimal - stick candy, rock candy, some of the novelty items of yore, plus Farrell's shirts and mugs.
Fountain and Candy Counter
The booth and table tops are made of a Corian-like solid surface material. The chairs are not bentwood, but give the appearance of something from an 18th century schoolhouse. There are numerous pictures on the wall from the Farrell's archives. My favorite picture is the store opening at Lloyd Center in Portland - three dozen employees are standing on the roof over the front patio of the parlour, which I am fairly certain wasn't rated to handle that much weight.
In the restroom hallway, proudly displayed on the walls, were three framed reproductions of authentic menus from 1963, 1974, and 1977. The current menu has an attractive array of burgers, sandwiches and sundaes. On two separate visits I had the Reuben and the Whamburger (a bacon cheeseburger with thinly sliced ham). Both were very good. For dessert I had the Rocky Road. I also sampled the Oreo Bliss and the hot fudge sundae. At the time of my visits, table service was not offered. I was told that full service would be implemented in a couple of weeks.
The ambiance of the parlour was broken frequently by the chronic noise from the adjacent game arcade.
No background music is used - the only musical offering was from the player piano. Songs in the piano library include Pink Floyd's The Wall and the theme from The Twilight Zone as well as more traditional ragtime tunes. As it turns out, not everything sounds good on a player piano.
When I was at Santa Clarita, southern California was experiencing its first serious rain in nine months. In spite of the precipitation, the Farrell's was doing a very respectable business on Saturday, with non-stop reserved parties. I saw two hot fudge volcanoes and four zoos being prepared and served. Even the Friday afternoon party traffic was better than I thought it would be. If this parlour lacked anything during my time there it was walk-in traffic. This was probably due as much to the rain as anything, but when I was there on a Thursday evening, there were only a couple of tables being occupied. This may also be due to the parlour's location.
My last day there, while I was standing outside the fun center entrance talking with the C.O.O. of Parlour Enterprises, a lady who was exiting the building asked if I was the manager. She went on to mention that the people who served her party were terrific. I couldn't agree more.
I am encouraged by what I saw while I was at this parlour. At the same time, I tend to be impatient when it comes to processes and procedures development. Of course, this is the "prototype" parlour, so presumably when the next parlour is opened, all of the procedural issues will be resolved. To be fair, many of these "issues" seemed to be transparent to the customer, and should not detract from one's visit.
Note: Since my visit in early November, Farrell's had their official "Grand Opening" on Friday, December 13, 2002.