Welcome to Hollis, a legendary neighborhood where Queens hip-hop lives and breathes. Orville Hall, the man behind Hollis Burgers/ Hip-hop museum greeted me with a firm handshake and a trustworthy smile. This burger joint redefines both what a restaurant and a museum is. Don’t get it twisted the food alone is fantastic, the fries are crispy and the stuffed burger looked like a heart attack that I would gladly comply to, and there is even a dollar menu of mini burgers for the kids. The 5 different flavors of the house-made Hollis Famous Lemonade deserves a shout-out as well. This lemonade however, takes a lot more than lemons. The secret ingredient in this formula is ‘Hollis.’
The grub drives customers to Hollis Burgers, but the decor, the camaraderie, history, and ‘You’re All I Need’ playing in the background suggests that this is about the Hollis experience. Eating at the tables is like peeking through a family yearbook of everything hip hop all the way from 1986. All customers pound each other with familiarity and a party can break out any minute. ‘But how is this a museum?’ some people may ask.
The ‘museum’ section is beyond just a house of important artefacts. Hollis Burgers is home to historical pieces such as the first printed gold platinum plaque in hip-hop music donated by Run DMC, Snoop Dogg and DJ Premier’s signed Adidas shell-toes hanging across the restaurant, Jam Master Jay’s original record player,Run DMC’s first concert poster of 1986… In addition to the objects in the restaurant, the museum extends out onto the streets and entire neighborhood community.
Hollis Burgers is walking distance from Jam Master Jay, Run, and Russell Simmon’s old houses. Across the street from the restaurant is the Holllis Playground where Run performedor the first time. Swerve to the left on 205th (now Run DMC and JMJ way) and Hollis Avenue is a mural commemorating the life and achievements of Jam Master Jay.
Orv insists, ‘this is not something that I made, I am just showing how we live.’ Back when Adidas shell-toes were a craze, Orv wanted to document how popular those kicks were in the hood and made a video for Adidas. A serendipitous phone call with Valerie Delavonte, he remembers with such precision, connected him on the line with Ziggy at Adidas who became interested in his pitch. Advertising traditionally works to show consumers what they should want, however this strategy was different. Orv’s idea was to show how poppin Adidas already was in the hood and it would be dumb for others not to rock those kicks and follow suit. It was a sign to the world and the market that hip hop is a vehicle that everyone can get on.
Orv explains, ‘Whenever I comes back to the neighborhood and someone starts with ‘did you hear…’ the next words I’m thinking in my head is ‘that somebody got killed’.’ He was legitimately scared for the community consisting of personal friends, family, and children of his friends. This great neighborhood that produced LL Cool J, Run DMC, Def Jam, Ed from Yo MTV Rap, Irv Gotti, Ed Lover, Daymond John (Fubu) will be re-calibrated through Orv’s vision. This is beyond a business, Orv says, ‘Every busin