CHERRY HILL, NJ — There is a new fast food burger shop on the block, and its name begins with an M.
“McDowell’s,” a spoof on McDonald’s, is the fictional quick-service restaurant located on Queens Boulevard from the popular movie franchise “Coming to America.” In the original film, released in 1988, it is the place where main characters Akeem and Semmi (portrayed by Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall, respectively) become employed, and where Akeem meets his future wife.
Now Joe Mccullough of JMC Pop-Ups is turning fiction into a reality. As a huge fan of “Coming to America,” he lept at the opportunity to provide something to connect fellow fans with an experience they won’t forget. On April 26, he will open the doors to a McDowell’s pop-up in the Cherry Hill Mall.
“Being a teenager of the 80s, I loved Eddie Murphy as an actor and comedian, and watched ‘Coming to America’ over a dozen times,” said Mccullough.
Knowing the huge following the movie already has, he knew there would be an appetite for people who wanted to do something unique.
“This was something I’ve tossed around doing since the first movie premiered, and now that the sequel is out, everything just came into alignment.” “Coming 2 America” hit Prime Video on March 4.
The McDowell’s pop-up is, in part, a dine-in restaurant, but also an immersive experience for fans young and old. Visitors will show up at their scheduled time and receive packaged meals of the beloved Big Mick with a side order of Chicken Chunks, as opposed to being served on trays, per restaurant COVID-19 precautions. There is also outdoor dining available, weather permitting.
A McDonald’s resides nearby in Cherry Hill, but none in the mall itself, so there’s no threat of direct (friendly) competition. In fact, Mccullough aims to reach out to that McDonald’s in hopes of doing some sort of co-operative PR with them in the coming weeks.
“We mean no harm!” he said jokingly. “Their customers are not our customers; this is all for fun. We have a lot of people coming to town for this, so we want everyone to benefit.”
As Cleo McDowell (played by John Amos) in “Coming to America” puts it, there is a clear distinction between the two fast food restaurants: “They're McDonald's … I'm McDowell's. They got the Golden Arches, mine is the Golden Arcs. They got the Big Mac, I got the Big Mick. We both got two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions, but their buns have sesame seeds. My buns have no seeds.”
In the sequel, released 30 years after the original movie, where we witness the grand opening of McDowell’s Zamunda, McDowell further explains: “The McDowell’s menu is in no way influenced by the McDonald’s menu. They’ve got Egg McMuffins. We’ve got Egg McStuffins.”
Mccullough said the pop-up will have a mixed atmosphere. The interior is a close replica of the scenes in the movie with fan-made props, merchandise on display for purchase and plenty of opportunities for photos. There will even be a section featuring Cleo McDowell’s office where you can sit at the character’s desk and hold the cheeseburger phone.
The initial idea for the pop-up stemmed from his work with the Eastern PA Robotics Alliance, a STEM educational non-profit for kids. While brainstorming about fundraisers with his team, one of the members suggested a ComiCon-like event in the mall, which segued into another pop-up that Mccullough manages called Galaxy Burger and Beyond. The Star Wars-inspired event will be held at the Willow Grove Park Mall from March 26 to April 5. A portion of the proceeds from every event that JMC Pop Ups hosts goes toward the Eastern PA Robotics Alliance.
“I wanted to create something interesting for people to do as they start to venture out more, where they can forget about the crazy world we’re in right now,” he said. “Our goal is to find fun events people can be part of and ultimately just get out and enjoy their time.”
McDowell’s will debut at the Cherry Hill Mall on April 16 and run through April 25. Already, fans of the movies from across the state have been securing tickets left and right.
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