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Meet The Guy Behind Wicker Park's 'Saved By The Bell' Pop-up

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Feb 24, 2016 9:01PM

'A 'Saved By The Bell' parody pop-up is coming to Wicker Park

When we broke the news a Saved By The Bell-themed pop-up was coming to Wicker Park this summer, we had no idea it was going to be this popular. Since news of the diner—called Saved By The Max and modeled on the after-school hangout The Max in the original television series—the project has gotten national attention.

The creator of Saved By The Max managed to remain anonymous for a while, but recently revealed himself to be local promoter and Beauty Bar Chicago events manager Derek Berry. Now that Berry's gone public, he took some time to tell Chicagoist how the whole idea came about, and what we can expect from the pop-up when it opens in June.

CHICAGOIST: So first off, where did this whole idea come from and what spurred you to actually make it a reality?

Derek Berry and his wife showing their love of the '90s dressed as characters from 'The Sandlot'
BERRY: Well, I've throw a lot of Saved By The Bell and '90s inspired events over the years at both Rehab Mondays and Beauty Bar Chicago. I've also DJ'd under the alias of "Team Bayside High", so I've always had a weird obsession with the show and referencing it!

C: So what spurred turning your "obsession" into and actual physical destination?

BERRY: After doing a few "themed" events and seeing how people really got excited about having some hands-on nostalgia past just the music or visuals. For instance, if we made an interactive photo booth, some custom named drinks, and ran with some extra production details, the event would just take off and everyone would have such a great time I wanted to finally take it to the next level.

So, I had the idea in my head for a few months, and then the right situation literally fell into my lap with a space that not only was going to be able to facilitate a Saved By The Bell theme, but could easily be made to replicate The Max. After one meeting I knew this space was perfect to make over and the people who own the space are into making this a home run experience nothing short of awesome!

C: Obviously the situation has blown up in the news. What are the wildest experiences so far?

BERRY: It's hard to choose one. I'm super pumped with the press and hearing them discussing it on The Today Show, and seeing it on the front page of some pretty big publications. But when Mario Lopez Instagrammed a picture of the event page shouting out the "AC Sliders" [a Saved By The Max menu item], I was like, "Oh man, it's on!"

I've also been contacted by a few different cast members from the show and had calls with them, and it's been unreal to hear their stories of how The Max was named and what it was used for in real life. A couple times I had to stay, "Don't fanboy Derek, don't fanboy!" to myself.

I hear they have a burger called an 'AC Slider'

A photo posted by Mario Lopez (@mariolopezextra) on

Which cast members? And does it look like there'd be a chance any of them might even stop by?

BERRY: We're still working out details on our end, but multiple cast members have reached out asking to come and are showing major support! We haven't confirmed anything on paper yet, so I can't say who, but I'll say it's both students and faculty. We're going to release which cast members will show up along with a full month's schedule, including all our events the last week of March. Did I mention the Zack Attack! all-star house band we're creating?

C: No, that's awesome. Who's in Zack Attack!?

BERRY: That's also a part of the surprise, but they're well-known Chicago musicians—both male and female—that we brought together! And the band's setlist will consist of covers from the original Zack Attack!, Hot Sundae, the doo-wop grouo The 5 Aces, Snow White And The Seven Dorks, and a few different renditions of the theme song.

C: So, finally, what made you decide to go public that you were behind the whole thing?

BERRY: There was enough buzz and positive feedback behind this thing, but almost every outlet wondered if this was real or actually going to happen. So I think doing it with no face behind it opened doors for that conversation, or for people not to trust that the person behind this has the experience to pull this off. I have teamed up with a well-known chef, and other people with the same vision as me who have also successfully pulled off amazing pop-up events, .

So I want everyone to know that the diner leave everyone with an amazing, nostalgic experience!

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Saved By The Max will open in Wicker Park on June 1, and you can look forward to our sneak preview of the location before it opens.