Most people build home Tiki bars to escape to a tropical paradise and sip Mai-Tais. When Erich Troudt built his Tiki escape, he had other plans. Erich doesn’t drink, but he loves his cigars. Wanting a place to display his Tiki mugs and enjoy a cigar or two, Erich didn’t build a Tiki bar, he built a Tiki Hut! Here is Erich’s story…
What brought you into the “Tiki lifestyle” and how long has it been part of your life?
Erich– I was a rockabilly greaser guy. I love ’50s stuff: the cars, music, and movies. In the mid ’90s, I would go to thrift stores, antique shops, and swap meets looking for ’50s stuff. I started seeing Tiki mugs, carvings, and stuff from the old restaurants. I just started buying it because it was old and cool. When I met artist Von Franco, he had a ton of Tiki stuff and it opened my eyes to a whole new world. I had no idea that a few years later it would become insanely popular.
So now 20-plus years later, I’ve got this huge collection: a 16″x20″ Tiki hut that’s filled and boxes and boxes of stuff in the garage that’ll never see the light of day.
When and what made you decide to build your own Tiki bar?
Erich– Well, technically it’s not a bar. I don’t drink—never have. Building the hut was all about having a place to display my collection. Over 300 mostly vintage mugs, 200 plus Coco Joe’s, lots of Witco, matchbooks, swizzle sticks, nautical stuff, Tikis, Disney Tiki…it all had to be displayed. I wanted to be able to sit in the middle and be surrounded by all of it. The hut was made for escape, to display the collection, and to give me a place to smoke cigars.
Can you give a little history of how it all came together?
Erich– I built my first hut around 2000 at my old house. My backyard was all tropical, hibiscus, banana trees, Tikis, small koi ponds, plumeria, etc. I needed a shed to hold my lawnmower that wouldn’t screw up the look of the backyard. So I built a 8″x10″ Tiki hut, thatched roof, side reeding, bamboo corners, bamboo bridge, and decorated it like a trading post: Tiki with a sprinkle of Adventureland.
At night it would be cold or rainy and I would push the lawnmower aside and sit inside to smoke a cigar. Around 5 years later, the house was being overrun with Tiki stuff and at the time, baby stuff. So I took out the lawnmower, put in electricity, moved in more Tiki stuff, a TV, and a bamboo chair and it became a Tiki hut rather than a storage shed.
In 2011 when we decided to move to the mountains, we bought a house with an acre of property and I started work on a new 16″x20″ Tiki hut.
This one was my Disney World. Like Disney, I had already built one and had already gone through all the trial and error of good and bad ideas. I knew exactly what I wanted this time. Everything was taken into consideration: weather, electricity, the size of my collection, insulation, real working ship porthole windows, a closet, the TV, surround sound, internet, DVR all being hidden, the remote control lighting… it was all a vision in my head and I had every detail planned out. It took 4 years from the first shovel in the ground to the inside being complete.
My buddies and my Dad come to smoke cigars, watch the fights, and just escape. My buddy Nate is probably here the most. Nate helped frame it when it was being built and he still says every time he sits in here he sees something new he didn’t notice before.
What is your favorite Tiki drink?
Erich– Seeing that I don’t drink, the cocktail side of Tiki means nothing to me. I realize that is a huge part for most people, but not to me. On the rare occasion I go to an actually Tiki bar, I have the same order: “Bring me something that has coconut, banana, and pineapple with no alcohol.” Sometimes it’s good. The bartender Melo at Frankie’s in Vegas makes something that’s awesome. Most times you get a crappy virgin Pina Colada.
There’s a fridge in my hut stocked with Hawaiian Sun Pineapple-Orange, Tiki Punch, Hansen’s Cherry Vanilla, and Stewart’s Orange Cream.
What is your favorite Tiki bar, not including your own?
Erich– My favorite was always the Bahooka. It was such a perfect mix of Tiki and nautical. Layers upon layers of cool stuff. To me, nautical has always been such an important part of getting the perfect look. The fishnets, floats, thick dark wood boards, big clam shells, barrels, ship lights, etc. It was sad to see the Bahooka close.
I like Trader Sam’s, but honestly I don’t go to many bars. I can’t smoke in them, I don’t drink, and unless they have incredible decor that I can get lost in, I lose interest real quick. The decor is so important to me. It has to take you to another place. I love the cluttered, layered look. I want it feel like you’re in a place that has been there forever. The “secret” room at the Tonga Hut in Palm Springs is a perfect example of it. Diablo did that room perfect.
Do you feel that music has an important role in creating a great Tiki experience?
Erich– Absolutely it does and most places I visit miss the boat on it completely. Just recently we walked into one of the Tiki bars in Palm Springs and they were playing James Brown. Now, I love the Godfather of Soul, but it was completely wrong. We walked out. I just couldn’t do it.
I’m all about the exotica classics: Lyman, Denny, and the vintage tourist-style Hawaiian music. I have hundreds of this stuff on vinyl. Hawaiian music doesn’t sound right unless it has the crackle of vinyl. I don’t even mind a smidgen of vintage surf music thrown in.
Like most of the Tiki mugs of today, “Tiki” music has branched out way too far. People mixing in techno and ’70s music and all kinds of weird stuff. I don’t get it.
I understand these places need to attract non-Tiki people to stay open. So if having a soul night or something that’s not exotica helps keep the door open, so be it, but it’s not for me. There’s a line between stretching a little to attract non-Tiki people and the bartender plugging in their iPod and playing whatever they personally want to hear.
Trader Sam’s has a good soundtrack. You can find it on YouTube. It’s branches out a little, but not enough to offend.
What does the future hold for you and the Tiki Hut?
Erich– The future of the hut is all about the exterior now. Figuring out how to bring a Polynesian paradise to 4,000 ft. elevation has been challenging at times. Snow, freezing temps, summer heat, along with mountain wildlife of bears, bobcats, and rattlesnakes has put a whole different perspective on decorating.
Bamboo gets ugly real quick and all the protective coating for wood so far have been terrible. Me and Dad are working on a few ideas that may be really cool if they work, ideas that will help keep the outside decor look fresher longer.
I plan on building a wood bridge with Moai posts, finishing the phone pole barricade fence behind the hut to slow down the bears from getting to the hut, a dock for a crashed boat, a dock platform next to my lean-to that will hold lots of Tikis, barrels and shells, and a bunch of lava rock placed around it all. The pace I’m on it should be completed 2 weeks after I die!
Anything else you would like to add?
Erich– Thanks for having me be part of your site.
If anyone would like to see more of the Hut or any of the wood carvings I do they can follow the Tiki Hut’s Facebook page.