Knoxville’s Other Tiki Oases

PARTY ROOM: Laura and Scott Kirkham (left and right) transformed their West Knoxville home’s basement into a sizable tiki bar hosting equally sizable parties. Artist Chris Chapman (center) helped design the bar and its accoutrements. Photo by David Luttrell

PARTY ROOM: Laura and Scott Kirkham (left and right) transformed their West Knoxville home’s basement into a sizable tiki bar hosting equally sizable parties. Artist Chris Chapman (center) helped design the bar and its accoutrements. Photo by David Luttrell

Trader Scott's Tiki Bar and Lounge, in the home of Scott and Laura Kirkham.

Photo by David Luttrell

Trader Scott's Tiki Bar and Lounge, in the home of Scott and Laura Kirkham.

Tiki collectibles on display at Scott and Laura Kirkham's tiki bar, Trader Scott's.

Photo by David Luttrell

Tiki collectibles on display at Scott and Laura Kirkham's tiki bar, Trader Scott's.

Photo with no caption

Photo by David Luttrell

A tiki mug featuring the Mai-Kai Mystery Girl and Bowl.

Photo by David Luttrell

A tiki mug featuring the Mai-Kai Mystery Girl and Bowl.

Just some of the tiki mugs on display at Trader Scott's.

Photo by David Luttrell

Just some of the tiki mugs on display at Trader Scott's.

The Hapa Haole Hideaway is not the only personal tiki bar equipping a local home. Knoxville’s network of tiki enthusiasts may be small, but they encourage each other to new heights of Polynesian Pop.

There is, for instance, Jeffrey Queen, a 53-year-old West Knoxville physician who has reconfigured his pool into a tropical plant oasis of bananas, ginger, and exotically named flora such as Tiki Torch Echinacea and Tahiti Sunrise Coreopsis. After several trips to Hawaii and French Polynesia, Queen says he was drawn to the Polynesian style of tiki, though he’s not a purist.

“My interests in tiki culture differ from Tim’s. He is a ‘classicist,’ and a darn good one, if you will. I am a newcomer and have varied interests—I like the classics as well as the new,” Queen says. “My ‘bar’ is really an outdoor kitchen with tiki influence. I have tikis from the Marquesas Islands as well as tikis from Augusta, Ga. I just enjoy the tropical influence without the Jimmy Buffet parrot influence.”

Then there’s Scott and Laura Kirkham who, with friend and tiki artist Chris "Tiki 65" Chapman, have entirely transformed the basement of their 1963 West Knoxville rancher into a genuine tiki bar museum and art gallery. If Tim Glazner’s Hideaway is a reverent temple to the tiki lifestyle, then Trader Scott’s Tiki Bar and Lounge is a full-tilt party room. The signature drink here is the Nekkid Dog. “I call it Nekkid Dog because ‘naked dog’ means you’re naked. Nekkid means you’re naked and you’re up to something,” Scott says.

The 43-year-old aspiring author is no tiki traditionalist, mixing old and new, but the original tiki heyday does represent an era close to his heart, having grown up in Houston, aka Space City.

“I wanted to build the bar like this is because the late ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s—that whole mid-century atomic era—represents a time when everything was going great,” Scott says. “People were scared of the bomb, of course, but the United States was going gangbusters, building and developing new things. Cars were huge, furniture was going in different directions, electronics were taking on really cool new designs. It was an explosion in American culture. Tiki borrowed from other cultures, of course, but it was uniquely American. So it represents an era that wasn’t necessarily better, but I would say it’s a more wide-eyed era.”

The large room affords plenty of space for the L-shaped bar, built of reclaimed materials in a weathered Key West style that is not afraid of Jimmy Buffet’s influence. (Patrons sign dollar bills, which are nailed to the “roof” of the bar as tokens of membership to Trader Scott’s.) But it’s the carefully displayed collection of tiki pop-culture items that invites second and third looks: pieces by current tiki artists like El Gato Gomez, Doug Horne, and Gecko rubbing shoulders (or bloodied stumps) with vintage pieces like an original Ren Clark severed-head mug and Mai-Kai Mystery Bowls.

“There can’t be too much tiki, as far as I’m concerned. Tiki is good for the soul,” Scott says. “It’s very good for relaxation—and building this bar was not relaxing. It was stressful. But now we kind of get here and it’s just… oooooh. It’s a decompression chamber.”

A lot of the room’s tiki embellishments—hand-carved baseboards, window casings, shrunken heads—were created by self-taught artist Chapman. He and his wife Mary run a store on etsy.com called Pineapple Co-Op, featuring items like his resin tiki shift knobs and her tropical-print handbags. Coming from the world of kustom car culture, Chris Chapman’s tiki pieces not only fuse hot-rod styling but are also made to take punishment.

“I try to immerse myself in all the aspects of culture—a lot of times, there are people who are just carvers, people who are just lamp makers, others that just do interiors,” Chapman says. “‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ is kind of my motto because I will try things even if I fail at them.”

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