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Tiki Central Forums Collecting Tiki Own a piece of Mai-Kai history
Own a piece of Mai-Kai history
Hurricane Hayward
Grand Member (6 years)  

Joined: Jun 07, 2008
Posts: 504
From: 16 miles from The Mai-Kai
Posted: 2010-08-01 7:47 pm   Permalink

The Mai-Kai has just announced that it is opening up the sale of hundreds of vintage chairs that were replaced in 2009 to the general public. (They were first offered in June to Hukilau attendees.) A story just ran in today's Miami Herald, so the word is probably spreading fast in South Florida. Get 'em while you can.

There are three styles, with and without arms, priced from $40 to $105 depending upon condition.



Below is the Herald story. It contains some great historical info ...

***

The Mai-Kai Restaurant is for sale. Well, kind of.

For fans of this Polynesian palace in Fort Lauderdale, a bit of its history is on the market in the form of 350 of its dining room chairs that were in use for the past three decades.

The Mai-Kai opened in 1956 during the heyday of tiki culture. A time when everyone wanted to travel to Polynesia sans airline ticket, cruise ship papers or passport. A time when the Mai-Kai's founding brothers, Bob and Jack Thornton, set about living their dream. They created an island-themed restaurant along a very rural stretch of two-lane road overlooking a cow pasture.

In its prime, their restaurant won numerous awards and was one of the highest-grossing establishments in the United States.

Today, those into Polynesian retro chic still gather at the Mai-Kai for events such as the annual Hukilau, which recently drew 800 self-proclaimed tiki-philes. And it is people such as these who collect anything that has to do with the Mai-Kai, including vintage matchbooks, mugs, menus and, now, even the restaurant's lovingly used chairs.

In 1981, when these chairs were new, the Mai-Kai took in $7 million with a staff of 225 working in nine dining rooms that seated 525 people. They had 11 valets parking cars.

There were three Polynesian Islander Revues a night, each featuring 11 production numbers performed by dancers such as Pasefika and Teronga doing the Samoan Fire-and-Knife Dance and Kainoa moving to the Tahitian Drum Dance.

The sarong-clad maidens in the 150-seat Molokai Bar each made $400 to $700 a night in tips from patrons who ordered Sidewinder's Fangs and Tahitian Breezes -- not to mention flaming Mystery Drinks delivered to the reverberating pulse of a Chinese gong.

Last year, general manager Dave Levy replaced the vintage chairs with new ones. The retired furniture was put in storage until now.

Christie White, founder of The Hukilau, plans to purchase one of the vintage armchairs that she thinks will look right at home at the head of her dining room table in Birmingham, Ala. "Not many people have a chance to buy a piece of history like this from such a jewel of a tiki establishment," she says.

There are three styles, with and without arms, priced from $40 to $105 depending upon condition. "Back when these were made, the craftsmanship was beautiful, beautiful work," says Levy, who is the son of Mai-Kai founder Bob Thornton.

The chairs for sale are almost identical to those they replaced in the 1970s, Levy says. The earlier ones had the same rattan frames as those on sale today but had woven aqua rattan seats instead of the beige upholstery.

The rattan frames on both of these earlier sets of chairs were designed by Al Kocab, who died in 1994. He had an advertising agency that did work for the Mai-Kai, Levy says.

Thornton was so impressed with Kocab's work that he got him involved designing many projects, says Kern Mattei, who retired as manager of the Mai-Kai in 1990 and now lives in Montana.

He illustrated Happy Talk, a humor magazine that the restaurant published semi-regularly. He also designed postcards, lamps for each of the dining rooms, annual souvenir calendars, the Shrunken Skull ("dangerous and deadly") and Kona Coffee Grog mugs, as well as the tiki-encrusted bowl used to serve the restaurant's Mystery Drink.

Drawings of Kocab's chairs are still in a file in Levy's office. When the furniture needed replacing in 1981 and then again in 2009, Thornton used Kocab's designs to order new chairs.

In fact, in 1981, Thornton sent a hand-written note to manager Mattei that read: "I like our current style [of chair]. They are quite comfortable. I also like our color [aqua upholstery]. It's a nice contrast against our earth tones. I don't think I'd consider any color but blue, green, aqua or red [for the upholstery]."

When the chairs that are now on sale arrived, however, they were upholstered in beige. At the time, Levy recalls, his father was none too happy with the neutral upholstery that replaced his favorite aqua, which he considered his lucky color.

But Thornton appears to have gotten used to it.

In a report in the Miami Beach Key in October 1981, Thornton wrotes, "With larger tables, spaced farther apart, guests have more room to relax in our new luxurious arm chairs and enjoy a fine meal."

The chairs purchased in 2009 that now fill the restaurant's dining rooms and bar once again are covered in Thornton's lucky aqua upholstery.

BY DEBORAH S. HARTZ-SEELEY

http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/08/01/1752281/looking-to-own-a-piece-of-mai.html

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Hurricane Hayward
Grand Member (6 years)  

Joined: Jun 07, 2008
Posts: 504
From: 16 miles from The Mai-Kai
Posted: 2010-08-01 7:58 pm   Permalink

Oops, forgot the most important info:

For information about purchasing the Mai-Kai's vintage chairs, call Pia Dahlquist, 954-646-8975, e-mail her at
pia@maikai.com or visit maikai.com. The restaurant is at 3599 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale.

I'm so glad I got my pick of the chairs in June. My only regret is I don't have room for more than a couple. FYI, they clean up nice with a little furniture polish and elbow grease. There are some that need a little work on the rattan frames but nothing most of you can't handle.


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phinz
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Dec 30, 2007
Posts: 196
From: Southeast of Disorder
Posted: 2010-08-02 03:21 am   Permalink

I have two of these chairs in my living room and they're just plain awesome.

 
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Pomaika i
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jun 24, 2003
Posts: 209
From: Orlando, FL
Posted: 2010-12-12 3:12 pm   Permalink

Just bought 2 for during my birthday trip to the Mai-Kai this weekend.

 
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wentiki
Tiki Centralite

Joined: Apr 20, 2008
Posts: 48
Posted: 2011-01-24 1:50 pm   Permalink

These are still available, get yours while you can! I just got mine... could not be more pleased with the staff who helped and the chairs themselves.

 
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Keone7
Member

Joined: Nov 29, 2013
Posts: 2
Posted: 2013-11-29 2:09 pm   Permalink

My wife and I got 2 of these a few months ago and had them refinished. We opted to go with totally new upholstery, rather than trying to match the Mai Kai design. We are very happy with the way they came out and will be picking up 2 more in a few weeks. We love owning pieces of Mai Kai history!







 
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TikiHula
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 09, 2002
Posts: 624
From: SacTown
Posted: 2013-12-02 6:48 pm   Permalink

diggin the fabric on both - one tropical and one atomic/retro!

 
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Hurricane Hayward
Grand Member (6 years)  

Joined: Jun 07, 2008
Posts: 504
From: 16 miles from The Mai-Kai
Posted: 2013-12-21 10:03 am   Permalink

Nice job!

 
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nomeus
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 06, 2012
Posts: 256
Posted: 2014-01-15 09:20 am   Permalink

i have 6 of these chairs if anyone is interested in buying them. they are in decent shape for their age. my guess is they are from the 70s based on the sticker under the seat.
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