A pastel pink truck arriving at Menlo Park Mall will be impossible to miss.
On its annual tour of the country, the Hello Kitty Café Truck will be parked from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, May 7 on the lawn near Macy’s.
Fans can purchase packaged merchandise and snacks. What’s new this year? A glass mug decorated with cartoon versions of desserts from the namesake cafe in Irvine, Calif., filled with rainbow sprinkles, according to truck co-owner Urania Chien.
Other new items include a lunch box, tote bag, and t-shirt. Fans can still purchase the hand-decorated cookie sets, enamel pin sets, plush toys, jumbo cookies, and rainbow thermos.
Items range from $12 to $44 (only credit and debit cards are accepted).
If you plan to go, be prepared to wait. The queues lasted up to five hours. “Superfans,” Chien said, sometimes arrive two or three hours before the truck arrives. Crowds often range from 250 to 400, and items (especially food items) sometimes sell out.
During COVID-19, the effect was magnified tenfold. The truck resumed its 2020 tour in July, when it headed to Texas. People lined up in their cars, and when it was their turn, they walked to a table two meters from the truck. They would order their items and the staff would put them on a stick and pass them out to customers.
“I think people really wanted to be outside their homes,” Chien said. ‘Because the concept is outdoors, there was a lot of popularity. Especially during the pandemic, people just wanted things to find joy.”
“People could buy the items from a retailer if they wanted to, but they want to be there with the truck and hang out with other fans,” Chien added. “A lot of them become friends on Instagram afterwards. It’s very common – fans bring things like coffee and donuts for each other.
Expect to see kids, parents and grandparents at the truck.
“We’ve got enough for there to be something for everyone, and that’s why our fan base is so diverse,” she said. “Little girls will get a stuffed animal, moms will buy a tote bag, and even grandparents will be thinking, ‘Can we have the insulated bottle for our tea?’ “
Perhaps the most ardent fans are those who grew up with the character, much like Dog. Calling herself a super fan, she recalls looking for rare Sanrio stores and finding a Hello Kitty item.
“It would be so precious to you,” she said. “That’s why I think merchandise speaks so much to fans. Merchandising takes them back to their childhood and surrounds them with that joy.
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Sanrio, a Japanese company that makes stationery, school supplies, gifts and accessories, launched Hello Kitty in 1975. The character has maintained a cult following for the past half-century.
After noticing that there were many Hello Kitty-themed cafes in Asia but none in the United States, Chien and his partners decided to open one in Irvine, California. To promote it, the co-owners have created a truck that will be presented at Hello 2014. Kitty Con.
They quickly realized that the truck was much more than a marketing tool.
“It’s become such a fan-gathering point and a cheer-maker that we’ve had two of them, and now they’re going to different cities every weekend across the United States,” Chien said. “We didn’t know it would be its own unicorn, but it got so much attention that we thought, ‘Let’s try it and see what happens.’ “
To go: Saturday, May 7, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Menlo Park Mall in Edison in the grassy area near Macy’s; 55 Parsonage Road, Edison. The truck’s next stop will be Flushing, New York on Saturday, May 14, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at The Shops at Skyview.
Jenna Intersimone has been a staff member of the USA Today Network New Jersey since 2014, having become a blogger-turned-journalist after founding her award-winning travel blog. To get unlimited access to her food, drink and fun stories, please subscribe or activate your digital account today. Contact: [email protected] or @JIntersimone.