Luna Park Cafe owner John Bennett admits he didn't know much about restaurants when he opened 25 years ago. He credits all the people he has worked with and now employs for making the cafe not only successful but the hub of a thriving neighborhood business district.
SLIDESHOW: Luna Park Cafe celebrates 25 unique years
When Luna Park Cafe owner John Bennett opened the restaurant 25 years ago at 2918 SW Avalon Way he admits, he didn't have a clue as to how to run a restaurant. "I had the building next door (now a coffee shop), and I was running Jukebox City out of it but I was out of room. So I called the owner of the building here and asked if he wanted to sell. He said, 'Hell yes I want to sell,' because the tavern here, Pat and Ron's hadn't paid rent for six months and the apartments were run down and the scene of a lot of illegal activity Bennett explained.
So, he took on the task of creating the restaurant and his first partner, Sandra suggested borrowing the name from the amusement park that existed at Duwamish Head around the turn of the century. "It took us like half the time to figure out that we need to hire professionals," he said chuckling.
He already had a lot of memorabilia, acquired during his forays to find Jukeboxes a business he created. One of them is still central to the cafe's theme of retro wonderfulness.
Today the Luna Parks is chock full of old coin operated devices, the world's largest electric guitar, old street signs, and lots of photos of the original Luna Park amusement park. Despite its identity Bennett said he doesn't have much of the original amusement park. He found a single tile from the original "natatorium" and did find an original cash register which is now on display at the Log House Museum.
As the business grew it began to have an effect on the area which at the time was run down with no other functioning successful businesses bringing people to the area. Eventually the cafe's influence led to the entire neighborhood along Avalon Way becoming identified with the quirky cafe. Now they are the Luna Park Apartments and more.
At the same time, the reputation for great food at reasonable prices began to spread with a particular emphasis on the Luna Park milkshakes. They are made with real ice cream and the cafe goes through 30 gallons of it a week.
Benett recalled one incident out of past 25 years that really stood out. A nearby halfway house was the temporary home to a man who wandered down to the restaurant after hours and found a door unlocked. He came in and proceeded to eat several gallons of ice cream only to completely pass out, being discovered by the chef first thing in the morning. No harm done but the man certainly had enough to eat.
Bennett credits the success of the Luna Park Cafe entirely to his staff. "We're known for having unusual employees, with tattoos, piercings and more but every one of them is great. We are a success because of them," he said.
The 25th Anniversary party featured two live bands, face painting, a beer garden, BBQ hot dogs and hamburgers, clowns, a raffle and more.
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