Filmmakers looking to shoot scenes in a typical 1970s diner that exudes atmosphere, seemed to have found the perfect location at The WHY Coffee House.
The Main Street restaurant — named in part because it is located at a Y in the road at Main Street and Portage Road, and because it was across the street from the former YMCA — hasn’t changed much since David Perrigo opened it in 1979, after converting an ice cream parlor into a restaurant open for breakfast and lunch.
Though David died several years ago, his daughters and WHY co-owners, Marti Perrigo and Rona Zimmerman, have left everything in the restaurant the way he had it. That seems to be why the producers of a Lifetime movie contacted the sisters a few months ago and asked if they could shoot some scenes in the restaurant after hours.
While neither sister has seen the movie, called “Sleeping With My Student,” they heard from a couple of customers that the suspense thriller had aired on Lifetime during its special “Shocktober” promotion, which runs through Dec. 21.
Shooting at the coffee house must have worked well for those producers because recently, the sisters were contacted again by a different set of filmmakers who also wanted to shoot in their restaurant.
Although a member of the production crew, contacted on Friday, said he had signed a non-disclosures and couldn’t discuss the type of movie being shot at the restaurant, the restaurant was closed on Sunday for the filming.
The WHY is usually open every day from 6:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., has a loyal customer base, thanks to the affordable menu, Marti Perrigo said. The No. 6 breakfast features three eggs, pancakes, two sausages, home fries and toast for $6. “We’re probably the cheapest restaurant around,” Marti said. The WHY is also known for house-made soups and chili available each day.
As a result of the filmmaker’s attention, Marti Perrigo said she is glad she and her sister never changed anything when their dad died.
The restaurant retains its art deco charm, including eight octagon red, white and yellow lights on a back wall. “Everybody loves the lights,” Marti said. She added that the counter top is shaped like a question mark with the cash register as the dot. “I didn’t even realize that until I was about 15,” she laughed.
The movie crew has enlisted the restaurant’s cook, Nathan DeLong, to stick around for the filming, Marti said.
“They want him to be in the movie,” she explained. “They want him to actually cook the food, I didn’t think he’d say yes, but he did.”
The crew also invited the four waitresses to be in the scenes being shot, but they were all camera shy, she said.
When asked what she and her sister and their staff thought about their restaurant being used in the movies, Marti said, “It’s fun.”
“My dad worked really hard to get this businesses up and going,” she explained. “I could have changed a couple things in there, but these people want to film in the restaurant because of the 1970s feeling. If I had updated, they probably would haven’t wanted to film there.”
Besides that, her 10-year-old daughter, Riley, a 5th grader at Colonial Village Elementary, is really excited. “She’s already told everybody at her school,” Marti said.