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Tiki Central Forums General Tiki Omni Hut, Mahi Mahi, Blue Hawaii Nexus uncovered
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Omni Hut, Mahi Mahi, Blue Hawaii Nexus uncovered
Swanky
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 03, 2002
Posts: 4967
From: Hapa Haole Hideaway, TN
Posted: 2005-09-10 2:08 pm   Permalink

I spent yesterday at the Omni Hut doing a shoot with Turner South for a "Tiki Blue Ribbon" show. I was very much looking forward to it so I could talk with Jim Walls, the man who created the Omni Hut. I wanted to see what he knew of the other places in Nashville, the Surf Rider in teh Andrew Jackson Hotel, the Mahi Mahi of which I have seen a postcard and a mug, and the Blue Hawaii from which I have a matchbook and a mug. I knew where the Blue Hawaii was from the matchbook. I also wanted to know all about his inspirations, etc.

He told me he was a pilot in the Air Force and was stationed in Honolulu around 1938-1940ish. He only worked 4 hours a day, so in his spare time, he was interested in food. He found things he liked and would go back again and again until he could find out the recipes and secrets of the dishes. He worked at one of the luaus on Waikiki Beach until the airplanes put the steam ships out of business and this luau. He worked at some Asian restaurant thatwas famous. Joe Young's? I am not sure. All these places he was gathering recipes as well as all over the world. He was in Panama and all over. He just liked it and had no plans of opening a restaurant.

He decided to retire and his choises were in Savannah and Smyrna which was home of Ft. Stuart. For technical reasons he chose Smyrna. So, he started his restaurant of "Chinese Cuisine." He showed me the first sign there for that. But with the decor, everyone said "you can't fool us, this is the best Polynesian food we ever ate!" So, 6 months later he renamed it the Omni Hut, because it was a nice short name. Open since 1960, he was the first Asian restauant in the area and is the oldest in the state now.

He brought a box of stuff with him. There were clippings and menus. They had nothing from the old days. The clippings were all from 2000, after they re-opened from the fire. The menus were all there from the beginning. They have not changed except the prices and colors occasionally. There was a red one he didn't bring:




Then I saw something black at th ebottom of the box that looked older. I dug it out quick and nearly lost my breath:

A Mahi Mahi menu! With the tiki from the mug on it!

I opened the menu and inside was the postcard:


I'd seen this in BK's collection. Awesome! Wait!

Next I see 5 X 7 black and white photos!

The interior of the Mahi Mahi!


The architectural drawing of it! Looks exactly like the postcard image!

So I had to ask him what he knew about the Mahi Mahi. "I owned it!" Wow! And I looked at the postcard again:


95 White Bridge Rd. Same as the Blue Hawaii!

It turns out, he did not build the Mahi Mahi. He bought it either in the late 60's or early 70's (his sons gave different years) and got a lot of debt when he did. He hoped his good food would make it profitable. It did not. A year later is was foreclosed on and the bank took all property and auctioned it off for pennies on the dollar! All they had was this stuff in the menu. Sort of...

After that it was bought again and it bacame the Blue Hawaii and had new big tikis erected out front. Last anyone knew it was the Golden Dragon Chinese restaurant.

The things they did manage to sneak out the back door before the bank came in were these two Maori panels that hang in the entry of the Omni Hut today:




I realized 95 White Bridge Road was 2 miles from my sisters house in Nashville, so this morning we went there. I was so excited. I wanted to scour the groungs for tiki stumps or whatever. Here is what I found:


Too late! It was demolished moths ago. My sister says I had asked her about the building before. I must have passed it dozens of times over the years. CRAP! CRAP! CRAP!

Part of the puzzle is solved. I am sending pictures of my Guanko tiki for the family to look at and see if it jogs their memory.

Here is Jim.

I hate that my picture is blurry. I met most of the family and they inspired me. I am going to let you all know what that means later. I wanna help these guys make Omni Hut all it can be!

Here are more images of the menu:


Just a few drinks



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[ This Message was edited by: swanky 2005-09-10 15:44 ]


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pablus
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 23, 2003
Posts: 2154
From: www.crazedmugs.com
Posted: 2005-09-10 2:42 pm   Permalink


Fantastic post.
That isn't a Walgreens going up in Nashville is it?
If so, we can assume that they have declared war on Tiki.


 
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Sabu The Coconut Boy
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Aug 20, 2002
Posts: 2789
From: Carson, California
Posted: 2005-09-10 2:50 pm   Permalink

Swanky -

Awesome! I'm so glad that Jim Walls is still alive and you got to talk to him. Thanks especially for posting that postcard and menu. I'm just drooling over the interior shots and the artist's rendering. Nice to have the history those three restaurants placed in reference to each other. I believe Bob and LeRoy at Oceanic arts did the decor for the MahiMahi. I'll double-check next time I'm down there. Great work!


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Humuhumu
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 22, 2002
Posts: 3536
From: San Francisco
Posted: 2005-09-10 4:12 pm   Permalink

Fantastic! Those are really beautiful pieces. That artist's rendering of the Mahi Mahi is great. You mentioned that he didn't build the Mahi Mahi -- was it a plain structure that he modified? What was it before? It's a shame that the building is gone now. Great story!

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Swanky
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 03, 2002
Posts: 4967
From: Hapa Haole Hideaway, TN
Posted: 2005-09-10 6:55 pm   Permalink

It was the Mahi Mahi before he bought it. As to when it was built, they had no answer. It was in a long decline when he bought it though. So it had been there a number of years. One son said he bought it in 1968. That may be correct.
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martiki
Official Mixologist

Joined: Mar 29, 2002
Posts: 3058
From: http://www.smugglerscovesf.com
Posted: 2005-09-10 9:56 pm   Permalink

Really nice work- that has to be one of the best looking entrances I've ever seen.

 
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theARTFINK
Tiki Centralite

Joined: Jun 02, 2002
Posts: 40
From: behind the green door
Posted: 2005-09-10 10:28 pm   Permalink

thanx for the story swanky. It's good to see some
mid-west/southern tiki history being researched as this is a very important chapter in the BIG book of tiki. I have
only been there once and was wondering if they have a license to sell booze yet? either way the omni hut is
a REAL tiki bar that deserves WAY more attention than it
receives. good reportin' ol' boy.keep us up-dated.


 
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bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11004
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2005-09-11 06:08 am   Permalink

Good one, Tim! A nice Tiki fix for me in far away Bavaria. That postcard! Amazing that it never turned up before...but then again, the place was not around long enough. I bet there were unused stacks of those cards that were tossed when it went out of business...
I remember seeing the rendering at O.A., and Leroy mentioning that it was an Eli Hedley project? Did I get that wrong?
Ben, d'you know?


 
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midnite
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 1230
From: 37? 47' N, 122? 26' W
Posted: 2005-09-11 10:05 am   Permalink

Stellar work, Swanky. Very interesting post/images. This type of thing keeps me coming back to Tiki Central.

On a personal note, I got all misty-eyed looking over your photos and thinking of Nananite and how much she loved Mahi Mahi, and those dishwashers.

Neato,
midnite


 
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Basement Kahuna
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Oct 14, 2002
Posts: 3589
From: Jawja Province, Isle of North America
Posted: 2005-09-11 7:39 pm   Permalink

Very cool work..If I can get a good image I will repro a few of my copy of the postcard for you.

 
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tikijackalope
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Oct 23, 2003
Posts: 820
From: KS/MO
Posted: 2005-09-11 8:38 pm   Permalink

I go to Omni Hut about once a year; thanks for enhancing my enjoyment of it. About a year ago I gave Polly and Tiki Farm each other's contact info after Polly told me she wished they had an exclusive mug...sure wish something would come of that.
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Swanky
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 03, 2002
Posts: 4967
From: Hapa Haole Hideaway, TN
Posted: 2005-09-12 08:25 am   Permalink

Quote:

On 2005-09-11 20:38, tikijackalope wrote:
I go to Omni Hut about once a year; thanks for enhancing my enjoyment of it. About a year ago I gave Polly and Tiki Farm each other's contact info after Polly told me she wished they had an exclusive mug...sure wish something would come of that.




I am working on this. A Tiki Farm mug is likely out of her price range, but I have another maker that can do small batches with no start up cost and good quality. I am going to see if I can get a mug made designed to look like the tiki on the menu, and see if she'll make a Navy Grog or Mai Tai set up so you can bring a bottle of dark rum with you and have a classic tiki bar drink there.

I am aslo looking to redo their website before this show airs to get people more excited about visiting.

The laws changed there and she can get a liquor license and serve by the drink. But this a small town operation. They work very hard every night to keep the place going. Extar money isn't around really. And they tend to reward their staff. The staff loyalty there is amazing. So, money to add an addition on for a bar is not coming any time soon.

So I am trying to come up with ways to increase people's awareness of the Omni Hut and make it a better draw for the tiki/kitsch tourist and hopefully help the bottom line.

I promised her that if she gets to the point where she can open a bar there, I will come over and help her design it and find all the decor she needs using the resources I found through doing Hale Tiki and working on the Headhunter. I want to make that an easier decision for her. It would mean more prifit and revenue, but it costs money to make money.

If any of you website gurus are interested in redoing the Omni Hut site as a favor, let me know. You can certainly promote your own work on the site in return. And if any artists want to donate to the decor in exchange for them promoting you, that would be great as well. I can attest to their diligence on this. When people asked about the aquarium in the entry, they quickly pulled out a flyer for the company that maintains the aquarium and handed it to the customer.
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bongofury
Grand Member (6 years)  

Joined: Oct 15, 2002
Posts: 1529
From: Ventura County
Posted: 2005-09-12 9:46 pm   Permalink

Great post Swanky........thanks

 
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melmot
Member

Joined: Oct 09, 2005
Posts: 1
From: San Diego
Posted: 2005-10-09 8:19 pm   Permalink

hi,

i just found this post by searching. My dad was the original general manager of mahi mahi. Soon as I get a chance to interview him, I will post more info on the history of Mahi Mahi.

tom


 
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Hot Lava
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 01, 2003
Posts: 190
From: Saint Petersburg, FL
Posted: 2005-10-11 9:08 pm   Permalink

Swanky,

I'd like to throw my hat into the ring to redo their website. Right now I have to practically hack my way into the site since their Flash detection script doesn't account for modern browsers.

I'll PM you with contact details.
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