They say that April showers bring May flowers, but this month a different kind of precipitation may be misting up Disneyland’s Main Street, U.S.A. I’m certain that I’m not the only Disney devotee who is shedding a tear over the loss of two favorite front-of-park attractions. One, a legendary retail outlet that had remained largely untouched for decades; the other, a relatively recent entertainment import from Epcot.
First and foremost, Disneyland’s Market House will close on April 15 for its transformation into a franchised Starbucks Coffee outlet, similar to the Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Cafe that opened in DCA last summer. The rehabbed location, like the one across the Esplanade, is expected to be hugely popular with guests seeking their familiar Starbucks fix. But we would be remiss not to mark the passing of one of Main Street’s best-loved locations.
The Market House, a 1955 opening day original that was originally sponsored by Swift Premium Meats, had several elements that made it unique in the Disneyland retail universe. For starters, the interior decor had an number of unusual antique or interactive elements, including checker boards you could play, an authentic cast iron stove, and (best of all) old-fashioned party line telephones you could pick up and listen in on comical pre-recorded conversations. Second, as a merchandise (not foods) outlet, the Market House offered not only a variety of coffee-themed souvenirs (including some lovely mugs I’ve collected over the years) but a more substantial Annual Passholder discount on all purchases than restaurants offer.
Most importantly, the Market House brewed its own house blend of flavored coffee grounds (much tastier than the terrible Nescafé normally served in park restaurants) and offered it in unlimited quantities. Simply save your same-day receipt, and the Market House’s gregarious cast members would happily offer bottomless free refills until park closing.
This combination of charm, taste, and generosity had long made the Market House a favorite among Disneyland regulars, who will now have to find another java joint until it reopens at an unannounced date later this year. When it does, we’ve received assurances from Disney that classic elements of the shop — including the telephones — will be retained; on my last visit, I overheard some Imagineers discussing the history and future of the iconic stove.
Less comforting is news that the Disneyana shop adjacent to the Market House will be subsumed into the new Starbucks, and all its collectible merchandise merged into the Disney Gallery down the street. The already-intimate Gallery is one of my favorite oases in Anaheim, and while Disney promises the rotating art displays will remain, I fear the placid museum-like atmosphere may be destroyed in the process.
Finally, while they didn’t have the longevity of the Market House, the Voices of Liberty have made a nice addition to Disneyland’s live entertainment lineup for the past year. Imported from a similar group that has been a long-running hit at Epcot’s American Adventure pavilion, the Voices were intended to be a short-term addition to absorb last summer’s extreme attendance.
Their a cappella Americana performances in and around the Main Street Opera House proved popular enough to repeatedly extend their limited engagement, but now the curtain has finally fallen. As of April 7, the Voices have sung their last secular psalm in Anaheim, and their west coast incarnation is done (the show continues as normal at Walt Disney World). Enjoy this video I shot last year of one of the Voices of Liberty’s first Disneyland performances.