What would it cost to start a fictional business like Luke's Diner from Gilmore Girls in real life? Let's look!

Some of our favorite shows have some really cool businesses.  Have you ever stopped to think about how much it would could to actually own and operate that fictional business in real life?

Think about it!  The bar from “Cheers?” Maybe Central Perk Cafe in “Friends?” The list could go on, right?

We aren’t the only ones who wondered about these things, because the folks at got to work on some research about what it would be like to run those businesses in the real world.  They came up with a pretty good analysis for what it would look like!

Now, let’s take a look at businesses from these shows and movies:

  • One Tree Hill
  • Gilmore Girls
  • Schitt’s Creek
  • Cheers
  • Friends
  • Bob’s Burgers
  • Riverdale
  • Parks and Recreation
  • The Office
  • Modern Family
  • Harry Potter
  • Sesame Street

In their analysis, estimated a lot of elements, based on listings in the cities the shows take place in, including rents and salaries, etc. And of course, you have things like fees, equipment costs and things like that were not factored in.  But despite that, it’s fun to imagine anyway!

A special thanks to the team at for the descriptions and images used below.

Let’s take a look at what your favorite small businesses from the fictional world would cost to operate here in the real world! Which fictional business would you want to start in real life?

  • Karen's Cafe (One Tree Hill) - Wilmington, North Carolina

    Karen's Cafe from One Tree Hill

    Karen’s Cafe (One Tree Hill) – While the building that acted as the set for Karen’s Cafe is now home to an Outdoor Equipped and Redix, fans of One Tree Hill can visit the city where the show was primarily filmed, Wilmington, North Carolina, to see many other locations that were included in the show. As for costs, the much lower minimum wage of NC compared to CT helps keep expenses down for Karen’s, which we estimate would cost just over $15,750 monthly to operate.”

  • Luke's Diner (Gilmore Girls) - Stars Hollow, Connecticut

    Luke's Diner Gilmore Girls

  • Rosebud Motel (Schitt's Creek) - Schitt's Creek, Ontario

    Rosebud Motel Schitt's Creek

    Rosebud Motel (Schitt’s Creek) – The Rosebud Motel was a unique case as it’s the only variety of business in this article that would likely require a downpayment and a mortgage over monthly rent, but we estimated those costs anyway. After the downpayment of approximately $60,000 is taken care of, you’re looking at an average monthly cost of $16,860. Even without the down payment, that’s pretty steep for a rural town in Ontario.

  • Cheers (From Cheers) - Boston, Massachusetts

    Cheers bar

    Cheers (Cheers) – The iconic bar from the smash 80s sitcom of the same name actually skewed our average quite a bit, as its estimated costs are almost unbelievably high. Boston’s high minimum wage for four employees combined with higher-than-average utility costs and the incredibly high price of renting a bar in Boston gives us a grand monthly cost estimate of almost $40,000! The bar’s real-life counterpart is still around though, and it’s surely raking in the big bucks as visitors can buy drinks, food, and merch inspired by the show.”

  • Central Perk (Friends) - New York City

    Central Perk Friends

    “Central Perk (Friends) – With that crazy-high Greenwich Village rent and New York City minimum wage (even though the cafe has just three employees), the famous fictitious location in Friends boasts monthly costs that are lower than the average of all of our listed hospitality-based small businesses ($16,514.33 versus $20,224).”

  • Bob's Burgers (From Bob's Burgers) - New Jersey Shore, NJ

    Bob's Burgers

    Bob’s Burgers (Bob’s Burgers) – Television’s other Jersey Shore favorites, the Belcher family are the only business owners on this list that also live where they work (or right above it, really). Renting close to the shore and paying minimum wage to five people combine to create a pricey monthly cost of operation of almost $20,000 per month.”

  • Pop's Chock'lit Shoppe (Riverdale) - Riverdale, NY

    Pop's Chock'lit Shoppe Riverdale

    Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe (Riverdale) – The dark and moody diner in Riverdale is just the third restaurant on our list, yet it’s marginally cheaper to run than both Bob’s Burgers and Luke’s Diner. Not being near the beach like Bob’s keeps rent down, and having half of the staff of Luke’s helps with payroll, leaving us to estimate that Pop’s costs about $11,580 to operate monthly. That’s about half the price of our average fictional hospitality business!”

  • Entertainment 720 (Parks And Recreation) - Pawnee, Indiana

    Entertainment 720

    Entertainment 720 (Parks and Recreation) – It’s no wonder Pawnee’s premier, high-end, all-media entertainment conglomerate Entertainment 720 went under so quickly. With monthly estimated costs exceeding $15,000 and no clients outside of the friend of the business Leslie Knope, Tom and Jean-Ralphio just couldn’t turn a profit through printing their own promotional cash and paying NBA players to help them dunk on the company’s private basketball court.

    Note that we continued using the relevant state’s minimum wage to calculate payroll here even though some of Entertainment 720’s employees say they make high salaries in the show. This was done for consistency purposes, but a real-life Entertainment 720 could rack up first-month costs of over $150,000.”

  • Michael Scott Paper Company (The Office) - Scranton, Pennsylvania

    Michael Scott Paper Company

    Michael Scott Paper Company (The Office) – Dunder Mifflin’s arch-rival for less than a season, the Michael Scott Paper Company has the lowest estimated first-month costs of all the businesses in this article. These inexpensive operating costs are actually what gave them enough of an edge to negotiate a buyout, but had that not worked out they would have soon gone out of business. Perhaps relying on insider information and stolen clientele isn’t the smartest strategy?”

  • Pritchett’s Closets & Blinds (Modern Family) - Los Angeles, California

    Pritchett's Closets & Blinds Modern Family

    Pritchett’s Closets & Blinds (Modern Family) – How Jay Pritchett made enough money to afford that house by selling closets has confused fans of Modern Family for over a decade, but maybe there is just enough demand for a good closet out there. While that LA rent isn’t cheap, the small number of employees a family business like Pritchett’s Closets & Blinds requires to operate does help keep costs down a bit.”

  • Weasleys’ Wizards Wheezes (Harry Potter) - London, England

    Weasley Wizard Wheezes Harry Potter

    Weasleys’ Wizards Wheezes (Harry Potter) – Currency should be a translation issue here as Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes is our only European fictitious business, but we’ll keep everything in USD for simplicity’s sake. The minimum wage in London is surprisingly low for one of the biggest cities in the world at right about $10.50 USD for anyone over 25, but with pricey rent and five employees, the joke shop’s monthly costs are just under $15,000 USD (the average for our retail businesses is right under $11,500 USD). At least the startup costs were covered by Harry Potter’s Triwizard Tournament winnings!”

  • Hooper’s Store (Sesame Street) - New York City

    Hooper's Store Sesame Street

    Hooper’s Store (Sesame Street) – The Sesame Street staple has been around since the show premiered in 1969, and has seen four different owners in its time. The late Will Lee played the store’s owner, Mr. Hooper, until he passed away in 1982, which then led to its inheritance by David (played by Northern Calloway). David sold the store to Mr. Handford (primarily played by David L. Smyrlin) in 1989, but it was once again “sold” to its current owner, Alan (played by Alan Muraoka). The rent is surprisingly cheap for New York City, and the payroll is quite high for only having two employees, but monthly costs are still below average at $6,900, which is maybe why the store has experienced such longevity!”

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