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The dream of a coffee house - Story of Chinese Gunther

Boundless passion

Gunther's obsession with Friends is next to none. The fact that he single-handedly recreated the Central Perk and Joey and Chandler's living room looking exactly as they did in the legendary sitcom is a testament to his passion. "It is a crazy act of a crazy Friends fan," Gunther did not hesitate to admit to it.

Over the past three years, he has received heaps of compliments on the uncanny resemblance of his creations to their originals, including from Roger Christiansen, one of the Friends directors who visited his coffee house in 2012 during his China trip. But Gunther is not at all overwhelmed by the compliments. "What you see is how they look alike. But all I could see is where they do not look alike," he said, "If it's possible I think I am more familiar with these two sets than the set decorators and property masters of the show."

Remember the frame on Monica and Rachel's door? Gunther made this one himself. And on it, is Christiansen's autogragh. Photo: Ding Yi/ sino-us.com

Gunther is on a never-ending mission to collect trivia related to the TV show, which he then puts on display in the glass shelves in his Central Perk. Once he was searching for a shell necklace on the Internet when a customer, a foreigner, looked on. Bewildered, he asked Gunther what he was doing and Gunther answered by showing him a screenshot of Monica wearing the shell necklace in a Season 9 episode. The foreigner cried out in awe, "You are really crazy about Friends man."

Remember Hugsy? Photo: Ding Yi/ sino-us.com

"My mission is to carry on the spirit of Friends. And my ultimate dream is that the six of them (the actors of Friends) will one day come to my coffee house and have a cup of coffee. I hope that when they do, they can see the love we all have for Friends. I believe this dream of mine will come true," said Gunther in a firm voice.

A fan with a kind heart

When Gunther first watched Friends, he was at a low point in his life because his first love had just left him. One of his friends, seeing that he was in such pain and sorrow, suggested that he watch Friends. “Since then I made six friends and I fell in love with them. I will never feel lonely and I will forever be happy as long as they are around,” he said in a speech years later.

To Gunther, Friends is a religion. “It is more on a spiritual level than a material level. It makes you happy and gives you hope when you are feeling desperate. That is the function of a religion.” Gunther has infinite things to say when it comes to the topic of Friends, “Friends teaches us what is love. It teaches us that we should be sincere with each other and help one another as friends.”

True to his belief, Gunther treats every guest who comes to his coffee house as a friend, or even as family. He doesn't hesitate to lend space at his coffee house to people who are in need, be it students who want a quiet place to study or young musicians who want to shoot video with Central Perk as background. He teaches them how to use the coffee machine, leaves bread and fruit for them, and even arranges fans during the summer because the central air-conditioning is turned off at night. "The world is too complicated. You wear a musk everyday and you still worry about being stabbed at the back," Gunther shook his head, "I just want my guests to feel safe and relaxed in my Central Perk, even if they are only here for a cup of coffee. We are friends."

All the Rachels who have worked at Central Perk have stories of their own, too. "I would love to offer an opportunity for people who have not been very lucky. Just come and work in my coffee shop. Take some time to relax and think about your next move." Over the past three years, graduates from the renowned Peking University and a postgraduate student from the Beijing Film Academy have worked at Central Perk. "I can say with confidence that the waitresses with the highest degrees in Beijing are all working with me. And I am proud of that," said Gunther.

There is a wall dedicated to all the Rachels and Joeys that have worked at Beijing's Central Perk. Photo: Ding Yi/ sino-us.com

As to his future plans, Gunther said he wants to create more coffee houses with different themes, for movie lovers, for cat lovers, and for music lovers. "When I am old, looking back at my life, if I have turned all my hobbies into coffee houses and made more friends because of it, I will consider myself a successful person," he concluded.

Writer's Note: You could find my previous report on Central Perk here, and a clip of my interview with Gunther here. For more photos of Central Perk, please click on.


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