For one week in December at a location in downtown Manhattan, Amazon transported customers back to a simpler time – and also one when a fictional New York housewife could become a star on the stand-up comedy scene.
To celebrate the Emmy award-winning first season of the Amazon Prime series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and promote the show’s second season, which premiered December 5, the online retailer and streaming media giant recreated a functional 1950s-era Carnegie Deli in New York City. The concept proved to be a hit: During the pop-up’s week-long tenure, more than 11,000 people dropped in for a nosh.
Pastrami on rye, anyone?
Amazon reached out to Tool of North America in February for ideas on how to promote the show, which takes place in 1950s Manhattan. Early on, the team hit on the idea of reviving iconic Jewish delicatessen Carnegie Deli as it existed in 1958. Founded in 1937, the deli closed its doors in 2016.
“We knew there would be a lot of nostalgia for [Carnegie Deli], and we also knew there would be this natural connection with the comedy aspect of the show,” said Helen Grossman, comms manager at Tool of North America. “Carnegie Deli was a haven for comedians in the 1950s — they got their pictures on the wall.”
Tool was awarded the project in October 2018, after which the agency worked quickly to set up the fully operational pop-up restaurant. Grossman said the goal was to recreate the whimsical world of the series’ star, Miriam “Midge” Maisel.
“The show itself really transports you,” she explained. “We wanted to recreate that for New Yorkers to experience, and also to find a way to bring new audience members into the fold.”
Recreating the 1950s
Located in Manhattan’s Nolita district, the pop-up deli was open to the public from December 1 to December 8. Before that, Amazon hosted a series of VIP events at the deli for the press, which were attended by the show’s cast. It also sent sandwiches and black and white cookies to media outlets in the days leading up to the opening via a delivery boy dressed in “full 1950s regalia,” Grossman said. The actor, fully committed to his character, “was screaming about how he was making 10 cents an hour.”
The deli itself, which sat 30 people at a time, was also staffed by actors, who served sandwiches and New York cheesecake in character, complete with the appropriate 1950s slang — the food was “gangbusters.” Although they found smartphones “baffling,” servers could be coaxed into taking photos with the devices. Amazon also rented out the storefront next door, outfitting it with black-and-white televisions that played President Dwight Eisenhower’s 1958 address. Vintage cars and cabs lined the streets outside the restaurant.
While the sandwiches were advertised as costing an era-appropriate 99 cents, the meals were actually free – courtesy of Midge, according to the checks diners received.
Deli concept delivers
Over its eight-day run, the deli served 11,047 people, with the line to get in consistently wrapping around the block. Wait times frequently hit the three-hour mark. The vintage cars gave fans something to look at and photograph as they waited, which drove engagement on social media. The week-long event generated 1,735 posts across platforms.
We Went To The "Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" Carnegie Deli Pop-Up And It Was Marvelous https://t.co/OUVQjSahYD
— BuzzFeed (@BuzzFeed) December 3, 2018
The event also received extensive press coverage. Articles on the pop-up appeared in BuzzFeed, Food & Wine, Forbes, The New York Times, and Vogue, among others, and Entertainment Tonight and the Today show ran spots on it as well.
“A lot of these brand activations are truly geared toward taking a photo, tagging it, and then leaving,” Grossman said. “But you could see that people were actually getting super into it. That’s what we wanted: to set a new standard for a pop-up.”