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Celebrating classic and modern Polynesian Pop

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Name:MAI KAI LOUNGE- Tecumseh MI. (image heavy)
Type:lounge
Street:1445 W Chicago Blvd.
City:Tecumseh
State:MI
Zip:49286
country:USA
Phone:517-423-7401
Status:operational

Description:
Let me start by thanking the owner Tom for letting us in to take photos before business hours. The Mai Kai Lounge is located in the Tecumseh Inn. Just behind the checkout counter in the front lobby a small sign above the door leads into a tiki time machine. Opened around 1971 the lounge has remained intact for nearly 35 years. A credit to the present owner, when the motel was purchased from the original owner the lounge was left unchanged to this day.TRT 2nd edition description states quote "there isn't a tiki in site" we counted 12. Ten original Witco tiki bar stools and two floor to ceiling tikis. Stick with me as I try to get the pics posted.

The low mood lighting is just right. Check out the hanging bamboo chairs.

Gotta love this. Two hanging bamboo chairs with orange leather. An original OA lamp hangs above a small cocktail table with a Formica tapa print. Behind the chairs is a hanging curtain of beads.

Some photos are taken with the flash as the lighting is so low. The mood was perfect. Only the sound of a small fountain running.


Ten!!! Original Witco bar stools bolted to the floor. They could use a little TLC but when was the last time you came into a place with ten clasic stools

Right now I have to grab a beverage so I'll post more pics shortly.

[ Edited by: uncle trav 2013-07-04 05:10 ]

OMG, OMG, OMGGGGGGGGGGGGDDDDDDDDDD, I see my barstool now. After a night down in the marvelous Hukilau lounge, Uncle Trav we have a date for a road trip to 1971. Can't wait to see it in person, and more pictures that you took. Post More, Post More.

O.K. back with my beverage and on to some more pics. This is one of the tall tikis surrounded by classic plastic

If I remember right there were five round booths of different colors. Each had a tapa table and bamboo curtains that can be closed to give you that hidden in the jungle feeling.

Cool carved coat rack

Another booth with a big tiki behind it

On to the bar. This is a little fuzzy but you can see the tapa print on the bar and the OA float lights

This is the back bar. Note the modern design in the center. There a a bunch of carved coco nut figures hanging above the bar the whole length. The large mirrors give the illusion that the lounge is larger than is actually is.

A close up of the OA lamp

The orange booth, my favorite

The seafoam booth. The plastic bamboo forest with lights on the wall is the coolest. this pic was taken with the flash in person this looks fantastic. Check out the astro-turf on the back of the booth.

The other tall tiki


A small cocktail table with two bamboo chairs just opposite of the hanging chairs

The bar from another angle. A little fuzzy

here's a line shot of the Witco stools

A lone PM mug behind the bar with a coconut mug

A cool modern design Incorporated into the front door and the rest room doors



Some exterior shots of the lobby and entrance to the lounge. DAMN I LOVE THIS STUFF !!

Three weathered OA bamboo lamps above the outside entrance to the lounge

A close-up of one of the exterior lights

A shot of the front of the building facing the main drag

The Inn sign


Folks this is as close to classic tiki in Michigan that I can think of.The lounge is on the small side but it is unchanged from the past. Round booths with bamboo curtains, hanging bamboo chairs, Tapa print bar and tables, A fountain with fish, Witco, Tikis, Fish float lamps. The bar serves standard cocktails. The staff was very friendly. The motel has 61 rooms and a ton of antique stores are nearby. A real piece of tiki history that has out lasted many others and the owner should be commended for that. Thanks

WOW is about all I can say there Uncle Trav. Did you go back in time to take those pictures or what? Looks like the place is brand new. I can't believe the shape of the vinyl and love the astro turf. So what were the bathrooms like? Keep up the good work finding the lost treasures we so love.

C
Chub posted on Sat, Nov 10, 2007 8:01 PM

Very nice! I can't believe I never went to see this place in the 31 years I lived in Michigan.
Maybe next time I fly home to visit the folks, I'll stop by for a drink or two.

AMAZING!

I've got to make a road trip over to that side of the state!

Incredible Tiki Archeaology uncle trav!!!!!

Thanks for posting another "lost" Tiki Bar!!! :)

Cheers and Mahalo,
Jeff

A vintage tiki bar in my own back yard (well, the same state anyway)!
That place looks just like everything I've ever read.
Thanks for finding that hidden treasure Uncle Trav.
Definitely special thanks to the owner for not changing the bar

T

Those exterior lights are Eames era ottomans.
Made into lights.
Cool place.

T

Thanks for all the feedback! Nothing better than a weekend Tiki expedition. Thanks for the heads up on the exterior lights Skip. You are the "Rattan Man". I hope to get back to the lounge for a drink before to long. Thanks again.

.TRT 2nd edition description states quote "there isn't a tiki in site" we counted 12. Ten original Witco tiki bar stools and two floor to ceiling tikis.

..maybe he wanted to keep the place secret from other tikiphiles.... there is already one huge scumbag here on tiki central guilty of doing exactly this sort of thing for his own greedy purposes....

though it's never been tikibars style or m.o. to withhold info as far as i know....i'm sure there is a good explanation about why the tecumseh lounge was misrepresented in his latest book......

My main reason for the quote was meant as an update to the the review in TRT 2. The good thing is we all have a classic Tiki lounge to be enjoyed by everyone on TC.


"Anyone who has ever seen them is thereafter haunted as if by a feverish dream" Karl Woermann

[ Edited by: uncle trav 2007-11-11 09:23 ]

Cool find indeed. A real time warp. I love that there are STILL little Tiki hideaways like this to be discovered. I wish I could go there with a tripod and shoot the place with long time exposure to convey the atmosphere of it (this is not a critique of your pics, Trav!).

Those modernist shapes on the exterior walls are wonderful, I wonder what the paint job looked like originally...and if they ever had a menu...

Those Witco bar stools are classic designs. For 1971, the mixture of Witco and Orchids of Hawaii (the tall Tikis) is typical, that's what was available in that part of the country then...I don't think the lamps are O.A., Orchids had those exterior lamps...but neither offered those fishnet floats.....

Waitaminnit!...come to think of it, Chicago's JOHNSON PRODUCTS sold the floats, AND also Witco and Orchids products (see catalog cover in TIKI MODERN page 238)...I think we got the supplier!

Thanks for the info Bigbro. Here's some more pics. This one is as close to the actual lighting as I could get with my camera.

A close-up of one of the float lights

The last booth with bamboo forest behind

Oops, sorry for the goof there in TRT2.

As Tipsy/Dave says, holding back on info isn't my style, and if it was, I sure wouldn't have written a book like TRT/TRT2.

The Witco bar stools were not there when I visited.
Just the poles.

Seems unlikely that they JUST got the Witco, so I am not sure where they were hiding when I poked my head it.

Nice pics, Uncle Trav!

Good to know that this place is actually a bit more Tiki now than it was during my brief visit (which was a few years back).

[ Edited by: tikibars 2007-11-15 14:37 ]

G

Extraordinary find there, uncle trav! Just when I'd about given in to the thought that everything worthwhile had been uncovered, something like this pops up out of nowhere. And it looks pretty much unadulterated. Well, except for that NASCAR sign. Just quietly pull it down when they're not looking.

Thanks guys. The NASCAR stuff kinda dulls the mood. The motel is only 20 minutes away from a NASCAR track. But no juke box that I saw. I think one or two signs here and there is not bad after 35 years.

Wow, I love it. I've passed within a few miles of this place many times. Can't wait to check it out on my next trip through.

TT

wow..... it looks like i definatly need to check this place out. i wrote it off after reading about it in trt, but i guess i shouldn't have been so quick to judge..and the best part- it's only 30 miles away (which for tiki in michigan, is not very far at all!)
by the way, i'm new to posting on the forums, any fellow michiganders out there?

Us Michigan folks should plan a get together at this place!!

this place is fantastic guys. The owner let us in before the lounge opened for the day so I didn't get to have a drink and enjoy the "fullon tikiness" of the place. I believe the hours are 5pm until midnight but you may want to check the motel website to make sure http://www.tecumsehinn.com/ These are really nice folks and have done a great job keeping tiki alive in their motel. Thanks for looking at the pics.

Here's a big question: do they serve any mixed drinks that are worthwhile?

Or would we have to walk the bartender through making a decent drink?

I think the lounge serves standard cocktails judging from the liquor selection. If you mean a classic Tiki cocktail, such as a Mai Tai they may not have all the ingredients on hand or the knowledge of exotic mixology to make the drink. I think if enough people start to frequent the lounge and make suggestions they may be open to the idea of stocking more and different types of mixes and liquors. Maybe a friendly chat with the bartender and a written out drink recipe could get the ball rolling IMHO. Thanks

From what you have written Uncle Trav, I would agree that the owner as well as the staff would be open to all ideas. Other than atmosphere, the most important thing about a great Tiki experience is the beverage. Unfortunately, we don't live in the 60's anymore and the "beverage" is a lost art trying to make a comeback. The mixologists are going strong in the larger city's but I'm guessing that at the newly rediscovered Mai Kai Lounge, with it's proximity to the racetrack, well, beer wins. If we are able to create a larger influx of business for the owner, I don't see where learning how to make a traditional Mai Tai would be a problem. I'm all for a get together, since I'm in Florida, I'm jealous of you all being able to get there first. We are coming up in April, maybe we could start working on a small event during that time. Since the Mai Kai Lounge is in the hotel, accommodations would be easy. I'm wondering if we started making a firm plan, we could possibly get the owner involved and bring in an experienced bartender for a couple of days. From what you've said, he takes pride in his place and the fact that it's remained untouched. If he was made aware of how many people actually appreciate that and want to visit, it could end up being the place to go for all tikiphiles in a 3 state radius and a win win for everyone. Again, just want to say the pictures are amazing. Thanks for taking the time to go check it out.

a get together sounds great! my boyfriend is going to be in town the weekend of thanksgiving, and i dont know if it will be a very good weekend for a get together, but we are definatly itching to get out there and see what it's all about, so if nothing else i will be able to post my expirience. however, if anyone is up for meeting up that friday or saturday, by all means!

T

At first glance I thought that this was all in Uncle's basement and it was hard to believe that anyone could even pull that off without all of Tiki Central knowing about it long before completion.

Great find, you would never know from the outside. Would be cool to have a mini version down in the basement still. Michigan isn't dried up as much as believed. Will have to visit when in the area. -teaKEY

uncle trav, thanks for doing the legwork and making us here at tiki central aware of this place....sure, it's been there for awhile and a anyone could have looked it up in a phone book to find it, but thanks to you posting all this info and pics, others are now able to backtrack and enjoy the place..just look at the positive posts from folks above to see how this has added to their michigan tiki experience as well as renewed interest and support for the places' owners.....i know that there is no rule that says you must post everything about any tiki that one discovers, but isn't it nice to share and let others come to their own conclusions about a tiki bar as opposed to deciding for them what will be worth their while??...hats off to you my friend, thanks again..i will visit this place as soon as i am out that way......

MM

Hi Everyone-

My girlfriend and I visited the Mai Kai @ The Tecumseh Inn for the first time last night. We moved to town about 6 months ago and had no idea we lived so close to such a groovy tiki oasis. Then we saw the beautiful pictures posted on this board, and we knew we had to check it out for ourselves.

We were not disappointed--the decor is simply awesome. The drink menu at the Mai Kai Lounge is limited (Bud, Bud Light, Michelob, & some common liquors), but it's such an amazing room that we didn't care. If any adventurous tiki-philes are still interested in visiting the place sometime, send us an email and we will meet you for a drink!

UT

Aloha! and welcome to TC Mr. Moai. Thanks for the review. I haven't been back since I took the pic's awhile ago. Good to see some folks are enjoying the Mai Kai.

UT

Well it's nearly a year ago that I visited the Mai Kai to document it for this post. I just read on the website that the lounge is "temporarily closed". I feared the worst !. I did some checking and all is well. The motel has been sold to a new owner and they are waiting for the liquor license to change hands. As soon as this is done the lounge will reopen. Good news for us up north folks. When it reopens stop by and support one of our last classic Tiki spots. Thanks.

S
Swanky posted on Thu, Nov 6, 2008 4:29 PM

Did I miss this from before? Man, I love it! Would love to wander into such a great place. Thanks for the pics. It's what dreams are made of.

Just thought I would give another update. The Mai Kai is still closed for renovations but will open again. The best part is that the tikis stay! The ownership told me they have had many offers to purchase the interior items but the are not for sale. Good to hear they will stay as they have for nearly forty years. I am still looking for some more history for the lounge. A big thank you for the owners for keeping the lounge intact. I hope to post some more pics when they reopen. Thanks

C
Chub posted on Sun, Sep 13, 2009 12:17 PM

Anyone have any updates on this place. I want to go while I'm out here if it's still open. Guess I'll just give them a call. Will keep you posted.

C
Chub posted on Sun, Sep 13, 2009 12:23 PM

Well that was easy...I just called them and they are still waiting for the liquor license to change over. So it's not open for business, but they said they'd be happy to have me come in and check the place out if I like.

Good to hear your in your old hunting grounds Chub. If you do make it to the Mai Kai please take some more pics. Been waiting a long time for them to reopen and I hope it has been kept original.

Yeah, renovation always sounds scary. The Tikis are only one element here, but what about the cool modernist exterior, and the lamps, and the Tapa bar top, and all those other time-warp details.

On 2009-09-13 22:55, bigbrotiki wrote:
Yeah, renovation always sounds scary.


The amazing thing is that this bar is still there at all. This is the third owner of the motel and the bar has survived. I have only had contact with the new owner via e-mail but he has stated that the original decor will stay. As I said before he has had many offers from folks to sell the items but has said no to all offers. I have not been able to get down there to do a field trip but maybe Chub will have a report from the front.

The Mai Kai Lounge is still closed. I can only hope now that the bar will open soon. I believe the problem is with obtaining a liquor license but don't quote me on that. As of my last contact with the motel the contents remain and will be there when it opens again. As luck would have it all three owners of the motel, past and present have had the foresight to keep the bar intact. I hope they hold true to that view.

I hope it's re-opened by now?...

MH

I am going on tour with Cordis (www.cordismusic.com) and will be in Monroe, MI next week - not too far from this place, but is it OPEN? :wink:

Mr. Ho

Wow! Just over five years since I first posted this place. If I remember right I called them last year and they were still closed.

UT

The Mai Kai Lounge is once again open at the motel. I have not been back to the location since my first archaeological trip. Apparently is has been reopened as the breakfast bar for the motel guest. I can find only one photo but it doesn't look good. It looks like elements of the original decor are gone and those elements are what made the place rare in this day and age. New murals have been painted on the walls and the old plastic jungle on the back wall as well as the bead curtain wall behind the hanging chairs is gone as well. The large Tiki in the middle of the group of round booth appears gone to. As far as I can tell the Witco stools are still intact. Sad sad sad indeed.

Hey Trav -

Have you made it back to the Mai Kai lounge since it was remangled?

Just curious... we'll be driving through MI in a few weeks, and if there were anything worthwhile
left to see there, we'd make a detour.

From that last photo you posted, and the words "breakfast bar," I'm afraid we missed
the boat on that one...

Sigh...

--Pete

I have not been back. As far as I know the motel went through another ownership change. The tikis and all the faux plastic jungle has been removed along with some of the other older elements. New awful murals have painted on the walls to brighten the place up. I almost don't want to go back and see what it has become. It's a long road trip just for disappointment.


"Anyone who has ever seen them is thereafter haunted as if by a feverish dream" Karl Woermann

[ Edited by: uncle trav 2017-10-17 03:40 ]

Hey uncle trav! Wanted to reply to your post in the show me your Witco thread. and felt it was more appropriate to put it here.

We feel your pain. Still remember the first time we saw your pics on this thread so many years ago. (Is it just us or is time going by very quickly now? Weeks are like days, decades are like years...) We were so excited about it, since it's a doable roadtrip, not too far away ... it quickly went on our list of places to get out to ... but then, before we knew it, there were those new ... posts ... the grotesque photos with graffiti-like murals, the sad updates with all the horrible things the new owners had done to the place. A 'must see' quickly turned into a 'no way' ... so we stayed away, until last month when we finally knew it was the end.

One thing we realized when we got there: this must have been such a fantastic place in its 1970s heyday! We wish we would have gotten out there in the mid-90s, it must've been so cool then and just amazing to think it even existed there in Tecumseh, it seems like nobody there appreciated it or understood what it was. We really wish we could've made it out there that night you guys went and took those photos, back when it was still nice. Did you see the restaurant on the other side of the hotel complex? It was all locked up and closed and the owner didn't let us go there -- but I wonder what it looked like back in the day. Was it tiki, too?

Anyone reading this thread see how soon after your visit it was not nice, and only got worse. I don't know how long this owner has had it but so much was already gone, including the OA lights on the outside hallway ceilings. We saved what we could. We also took photos, but they're pretty sad. I don't even feel like adding photos because I want to remember it as it was when you guys went out there. What happened it since then is an absolute travesty.

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