Mission’s Rocko’s Diner goes Hollywood

Local eatery transformed into teen hangout from Riverdale show

The Archie Andrews character was about 15 years old when Rocko’s Diner first opened in Mission back in 1956.

Known originally as Nick’s Diner and then the Hi-Lite Burger Bar, it likely would have been the perfect hangout for Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica and all the rest of the gang from the Archie comics series.

Serving burgers, hotdogs and shakes, it was the quintessential 1950s diner.

Over 60 years Rocko’s is still standing, and now, thanks to the magic of television, Archie and the gang from the hit show Riverdale have actually hung out at the iconic Mission establishment.

Riverdale, which streams on Netflix in Canada and airs on the CW in the United States, is the re-imagining of the popular comic books for a new generation with a darker twist. The teen drama show deals with mystery, murder, sex and lots of juvenile angst.

The significant interest in the show has been a boon for the local restaurant. Rocko’s was used as Pop’s Chock’Lit Shoppe in just the pilot episode for the show, with the production building their own version on a lot in Langley after the show was green-lit.

But images of Rocko’s were used in promotional shots, and it’s now the closest that fans of the show can get to experiencing life in Riverdale.

Debbi Schiller, the owner of Rocko’s, said her restaurant has been seeing a lot of new faces since the show became a hit.

“Riverdale sort of just became a phenomenon,” she said. “People come in and talk about it all the time. It’s brought in a different demographic.”

Schiller and her family have owned Rocko’s since the late-1970s and the location has been used several times for productions. Movies such as Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, Horns, Killer Among Us and a handful of Hallmark movies have all used the Mission establishment in their productions.

“The thing with Rocko’s is that we own the building and the land,” she said. “We’re a rare free-standing diner. We’re one of the last of our kind still around.”

Schiller, a comic book fan who co-owns Nerd Haven Games in Abbotsford, said it was exciting to find out the filming was connected to Archie comics.

“All they told us beforehand was it was a comic-book-related thing,” she said. “When I found out that it was Archie, I was kind of stoked about that.”

Mission was one of several locations throughout Metro Vancouver that the show filmed in. Aldergrove’s Twilight Drive-In, Gabby’s Country Cabaret in Langley and a number of spots in Surrey and Vancouver were also used by the production.

But Rocko’s has been perhaps the most identifiable set used in the show.

“They basically kept it exactly the same as we do,” Schiller said. “They used all of our tablecloths, plates, cutlery, everything. That’s why it’s been popular for people to try to recreate some of the pictures they did with the show.”

She said crews were at Rocko’s for about a week last spring, with staff on hand to help out with any questions.

Schiller said it’s been fun to see the passion fans of the show bring.

“It’s insane,” she said. “We try and tell them what booth they all sat in or what window they took pictures in, and there’s just a lot of hype about the show. We’ve had all the Mission kids and youth groups that have been coming to Rocko’s for years but now we’re drawing clientele from people out of our area. They’re making the trek to where the stars were, and you can literally sit in Archie or Jughead’s booth.”

For what it’s worth, Schiller said she enjoys the show.

“I have watched it and it reminds me a lot of Twin Peaks,” she said, referencing the ’90s drama. “I can see why it has captured people’s attention.”

Riverdale’s 13-episode first season concludes on May 4, with a second season set to film this year.

 

(From left) Owner Debbi Schiller, serving manager Betty Rose and kitchen manager Kelly Schiller sit inside one of the booths made famous in the Riverdale show. (Photo by Clare Seeley)

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