The (next) final frontier
With Star Trek departing Las Vegas, a husband-and-wife team is trying to keep the sci-fi spirit alive and well with their own cafe
Thu, Aug 28, 2008 (midnight)
Photo: Iris Dumuk
I am not a Trekkie or a Star Wars buff, and this is an important disclaimer, because I don't totally get it. But I love the memorabilia—it speaks to the consumer in anybody, the toy-lover. Still, when Suzanne Hauglin is showing me family pictures littered with cameos of minor stars from an episode of a TV series in 1990-something, I can only smile politely, rather than glom onto the vicarious thrill. But being with Suzanne and her husband, Robert—they married on the Enterprise at the Hilton's soon-to-close Star Trek: The Experience—has a way of making you wish you did get it, because they seem happily, freakishly obsessed with all things sci-fi.
So much so that they made up their own universe—an act to be envied in any genre—and wrote it into a novel ("The Barrier Breaker Universe," due to be published in August 2009). That story sets the scene for their next business plan, which is to take all of this stuff—the novel's characters, the Star Wars cereal boxes and Star Trek action figures, their combined backgrounds in restaurant work and their lifelong love of otherworldliness—and open a themed restaurant called The Sci Fi Café here in Vegas.
It's a fantasy they've been hashing out for years, and the time seems right now that the Hilton's Star Trek: The Experience and Quark's Bar are set to close.
"We're hoping to bring some of that fan base in," says Suzanne in their suburban living room, which has been converted into a cave of dark sci-fi collectibles. The ceiling is plastered, every inch, with framed posters: Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Stargate, Babylon 5. One wall is covered top-to-bottom in shelves of packaged action figures and Star Trek lunch boxes, Star Wars figurines, ray guns and Quark's Bar glasses. Another features pictures of the Hauglins, in costume, at various conventions hobnobbing with Mr. Spock and Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, who are the only two stars I actually did recognize. Vaguely.
This all started for Suzanne at age 5, when she befriended the TV characters on Star Trek for life. And Robert became a diehard fan as a kid, too, when he saw Star Wars. "It was new and refreshing, and my mother didn't get it, and we ate it up."
So now, 40 years later, they're honing in on a site Downtown to open a restaurant, bar and museum. The plan is to host some events at banquet halls before the opening to build a client base. Then they'll move their enormous collection of memorabilia into the new site, offer a wide variety of dishes (Suzanne's catering background allows her to offer dishes such as blackberry port chicken with jasmine rice and purple apple slaw) and welcome people to come in costume, if so desired, any day of the week. I'm going as Picard, or a cereal box.
Their first event is September 17, at the Hacienda Gardens Banquet Hall. Check out TheSciFiCafe.com for more info.