Tiki madness! Long Beach gets its own monthly tiki market

All the rage in the 1950s, now, six decades later, tiki is back in a big way.

Fueled by the craft cocktail craze, Polynesian-themed bars are popping up across the country. And this year, Long Beach got its very own tiki bar with Bamboo Club, set in the former Liquid Lounge space on Anaheim Street just east of Redondo Avenue.

Bamboo Club boasts an impressive, chef-driven menu (it even offers homemade spam!), and now, it offers a monthly marketplace with all things tiki including hand-carved masks and totems, arts and crafts from local artists, mugs and (of course) Hawaiian shirts.

The inaugural Hardcore Tiki Marketplace kicked off on Saturday with about a dozen vendors and will take place on the first Saturday of every month.

Tikis waiting for a new home at the tiki marketplace. Photo by Craig Lowden.

Tiki fans on Saturday said the Long Beach event helps to fill the void left when Don the Beachcomber in Sunset Beach closed last year, taking with it its popular monthly market that drew hundreds of visitors.

“It’s great we can have something like this in Long Beach,” said local artist Doug Horne, who has been creating Polynesian pop-themed art for two decades.

Horne, who also designs high-end tiki mugs, said business has been booming in recent years thanks to the resurgence in popularity. Horne currently has about 10 mugs in the works, including a house mug for Bamboo Club.

Long Beach artist Doug Horne creates colorful Polynesian pop-themed pieces. Photo by Craig Lowden.

While they borrow heavily from Polynesian culture, the first tiki bars actually originated in California with the opening of the original Don the Beachcomber restaurant in Los Angeles in the 1930s. The craze exploded after World War II when U.S. servicemen returned from the South Pacific and brought a newfound love for tropical escapism.

The mid-century fad is now seeing a revival with dozens of bars opening in cities from Kansas City, Missouri, to Grand Rapids, Michigan and San Diego.

Car with the license plate “tiki life” at Bamboo Club. Photo by Craig Lowden.

Tiki mugs have also seen a rise in popularity, with some collectors selling items on eBay for hundreds of dollars.

Long Beach native Holden Westland, founder of San Clemente-based Tiki Farm, which is said to be the world’s largest manufacturer of fine-art tiki mugs, said he’s seen his business double in the past year.

Tiki Farm, founded in 2000, was one of the first suppliers of custom mugs for bars and restaurants. In 2017, Westland said he sold about 150,000 mugs. This year he’s expected to sell around 750,000.

“Business has been good,” said Westland, who was selling mugs at Saturday’s event.

The marketplace was organized by Vicki Bassham, wife of Ben “Bamboo Ben” Bassham, a third-generation tiki bar builder who has designed top spots including TikiCat in Kansas City and Zombie Village in San Francisco.

Vicki Bassham, who lives in Huntington Beach, said Long Beach has embraced the tiki vibe. Bassham hopes to grow the event with more vendors and live music.

“I think it’s a good fit for Long Beach,” she said.

If you go:

Hardcore Tiki Marketplace takes place the first Saturday of every month from noon to 5 p.m. at Bamboo Club, 3522 E. Anaheim St. The next market is on Aug. 3.

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Kelly Puente is an award-winning general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. She has worked as a journalist in Long Beach since 2006, covering everything from education and crime to courts and breaking news. Kelly previously worked at the Long Beach Press-Telegram and the Orange County Register before joining the Post in 2018. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].