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Tropics Lounge, Wichita, KS (bar)

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Name:Tropics Lounge
Street:2705 North Broadway

This is a well-preserved 1957 bar in a commercial/industrial area of Wichita. It has some tiki elements in it's decor and also serves sandwiches. At the time of this writing and as far as I know, it is the only thing resembling a tiki bar in Kansas or the near-by states of Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

(Pictures were restored Jan 11, 2011; originally they were on Shutterfly.)

Once in awhile its good to be wrong. I had first reported the Tropics Lounge in a thread about places that seemed like they should be tiki, but aren't. A less rushed examination (with, I think, fewer beer standees and banners distracting from the older decor) reveals enough tikiness to include it here.
I spent part of an afternoon there recently and found it to be a friendly place with the atmosphere of a much-beloved neighborhood bar. There's no exotica on the jukebox, but, hey, this is the closest thing we've got to a tiki bar for literally hundreds of miles around. Its 1957 vintage appeals to me:

I can't readily identify the material of this head in the corner; it is thin and a small chipped area suggests it is some sort of paper mache or styrofoam:

The bar:

This Witco-like tiki resides behind the bar; part of it's right side looks like it's been burned more than in the normal finishing process. I am told its a recent addition, donated by customers. Would anyone know who made it?:

The fireplace has a piece of artwork above and styrofoam tikis flanking it:

This is paint on black paper artwork. It is dated 1958 and signed "Kirkhart"; I am told it was done by a friend of the owner and depicts the bar, although it's not quite accurate to its present layout. The name on the drum is "Bob Smith." There are no tikis in the picture but there is a shrunken head depicted on a wall by the bar. I imagine this may have been quite a hopping place back when Broadway (Hwy 81) was more traveled before interstate 135 came through Wichita:

The styrofoam tiki on the mantle - I'd never seen a styrofoam tiki before. It looks like some sort of beer or liquor display item. Input, anyone?:

Close-up of one of two styrofoam masks. Would anyone know where these came from and how old they are?:

A few tropical/African/tiki objects reside over the door to the back room:

A mask similar to the comedy/drama type and a few other objects:

A few Orchids of Hawaii tiki mugs vie with beer banners for attention in this area:

The bartender told me the place has never served mixed drinks - beer and pop only. But, they do serve it in these goblets, which they tell me they are buying new from a distributer. I didn't know these were still made. The bar also serves sandwiches in the five-dollar range, which I tried and found to be pretty good, as well a good value for my money:

(note added Jan 11, 2011: Since this was first posted these glasses have disappeared. A few years ago, a manager of the bar told me that a previous manager sold all of them to "a guy who saw them on the internet." I cringe that whoever it was may have seen them in this post.)

Two of my favorite elements are tiki and trains. The Tropics is across the street from the Burlington Northern - Santa fe yards. Here, a North-bound train speeds by. The next time a steam excursion goes through, I may have to photograph it here:

(Note added Jan 11, 2011: six years later and no steam excursion past this point. I have photographed steam engines in Wichita but all have used UP track a couple miles from here.)

[ Edited by: tikijackalope on 2004-11-03 04:46 ]

[ Edited by: tikijackalope 2011-01-11 21:48 ]

[ Edited by: tikijackalope 2011-01-11 21:54 ]

Cool Find! I still wish I could've found time on my semi-anual road trip to check out the possible tiki spots in Oklahoma, but finding that there's as much Tiki in Kansas as in Indiana in encouraging.


I was within a few blocks of that address today as I went through Wichita but I didn't know about the place until I got home this evening and found this post. Oh well, next time I'm there I will stop in. Thanks for the pictures.

I was in there on Saturday; the owner told me the place started life as a liquor store before converting to a bar under the same owner. He also said the head in the corner is styrofoam. The original owner is dead; Would anyone know where all that styrofoam stuff came from? 8ft, next time you're in the neighborhood, drop me a note first; I'll share a couple of my secret tiki/witco hunting grounds.

[ Edited by: tikijackalope on 2004-10-27 00:19 ]

Great example of a selfmade Polynesia Americana. The painting is cool, it shows how Tiki was the thing to do for the casual and hip back then. The Tikis, styrofoam and Witco, are definetely vintage.

Most interesting to me are the painted masks and shield on the front, they must have just repainted the original designs.
These are in the same style than the Kon Tiki Hotel Phoenix (BOT p.118) sign and wall decor, a style which ALSO (as mentioned before) appears in the 1967 Jerry Lewis film "The Big Mouth" on the grounds of Del Webb's Ocean House (last known as the Mission Bay Hilton) in San Diego.

Does anybody have any good shots of the Phoenix Kon Tiki Hotel entrance walls with all the masks and shields? I am dying to find out who that artist was...

(photos restored Jan 11, 2010)

bigbrotiki wrote:

The Tikis, styrofoam and Witco, are definetely vintage.

Any idea who made the styrofoam ones?

Most interesting to me are the painted masks and shield on the front, they must have just repainted the original designs.

Here's a copy photo of an older picture of the bar, year unknown. It looks like the masks and shields in this pic were plywood.

And here's another head hanging around the place. This one is plaster on wire mesh.

[ Edited by: tikijackalope 2011-01-11 21:53 ]

Cooo-elle! That pic proves it, these are the same masks and shields (less compressed than in the later paint job) that were used on the Kon Tiki Hotel Phoenix and in the Jerry Lewis movie! Unfortunately I did not have enough room in the BOT to show all the Kon Tiki Phoenix stuff I have. Maybe others could post pics of any matchbooks, ash trays or photos of the great sign inspired by those masks.

It makes sense that these were out of plywood, maybe they were massproduced and offered by a restaurant supplier...
I have to talk to O.A. again, maybe they ring a bell now. Would love to know whose design that was.

I have no idea who made the styrofoam Tikis, but I recall seeing the boobed one in a Johnson Products Chicago catalog. Maybe they offered those masks and shields too, at some point...

Oh, and that pic of the Tiki and the train outside is great, it reminds me of my favourite B&W photo book, "Steam, Steel & Stars" where this guy O. Winston Link photographed the last steam trains going by towns, with huge flashlight set ups. There are pics of a train going by a swimming pool with 50s bathing beauties, a drive in, and from inside a living room. Very surreal, David Lynch style.

[ Edited by: bigbrotiki on 2004-11-16 05:47 ]

Man I sure wish all of these old posts still had the pictures. Here is a postcard from the Tropics Lounge. Tikis and the Schlitz sign, go figure!

Interior photo from The Lope's website. Maybe you can repost some more.



To refresh and make clear what I was talking about above, the two other examples of the modernist shield/mask designs:

Jerry Lewis at Del Webb's Ocean House (later Mission Bay Hilton), San Diego

The Kon Tiki Hotel, Phoenix. The masks were not only used for the amazing sign, but lined the outside of the lobby.
I know this because of this photo:

...and when we zoom into the post card, one can sense the colorful pageantry lined up:

[ Edited by: bigbrotiki 2009-01-21 21:57 ]


You found the photos and added them to the post. Great.


We were in Wichita Fri and Sat, so we went out to see if this was still there. The answer, yes and no. The building exists complete with somewhat covered decorative painting, but that may be all.

We couldn't get inside (too early in the day) so I took a couple shots through the windows. From what I can see it looks slightly remodeled and sanitized of tiki. Oh well, what were the odds, eh?

Yeah, I've been inside and it's detikified. The place has changed hands at least once (twice, I think) since I started this thread nine years ago (I did restore the pics). As to the artifacts, the only thing I am told survives is the artwork of patrons at the bar. A bartender told me it was removed for restoration.

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