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Just a few classic matchbooks from Phoenix/El Segundo

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I really love the inside of the Islands matchbook. Think I might have to blow this one up...


[ Edited by: martiki6 on 2003-06-23 23:51 ]

Yeah, I really love the lettering style on the Islands matchbook. And I applaud any tiki bar that puts an exterior shot of the building on the matchbook as well. I love those. Great finds!



Sheesus, Martin, don't blow it up, save it!! Damn, what are you trying to do, eliminate any nice tiki-related artifacts you come across before anybody else gets a chance to see them in person? Are you some kind of pyro?

Have a safe and sane 4th of July,


Here's a little more info that I have about this place.

Several years ago I found and interviewed Mr. Tommy Wong, he created Tommy Wong's Island restaurant here in Denver (some of you may have seen the matchbook cover for this place). Anyway, he had some interesting stories and I thought I would shed a little more light on the subject.

Back in 1954 Mr. Wong went to work for Don the Beachcomber as their #2 chef in their Chicago restaurant. Four years later he got an offer to be a head chef for one of their new restaurants. He jumped at the deal and moved to Las Vegas.

But the restaurant he relocated to open was NOT a Don the Beachcomber. It turns out that Del Webb (a millionaire land developer) wanted to open a polynesian restaurant and had leased the space in the Stardust casino. Mr. Webb contracted with Don the Beachcomber to decorate and operate this new place for the first six months of operation. That's where Mr. Wong comes in. He was offered the head chef position at this new restaurant. This place was the Aku Aku. Mr. Wong opened the Aku Aku and ended up staying for four years as head chef. He and Del Webb became good friends.

Mr. Wong left the Aku Aku in 1968 and moved here to Denver to open his own restaurant. It was a chinese place, and it did VERY. By 1972, Mr. Wong wanted to get back into the polynesian restaurant business and had the money to do so. So he built The Islands restaurant here in Denver and the place really took off.

In 1976 Mr. Wong got a call from his old friend Del Webb. Del told him about this place that he had down in Phoenix and asked Mr. Wong if he wanted to buy it. It was the Islands Restaurant. Mr. Wong jumped at the chance, against the advice from his wife, and bought the place from Del.

He said that was his biggest mistake and his downfall. Even though both of his Islands Restaurants were still doing very well, the operating costs and the amount spent on building and renovating them were too much to keep up with. He spent one million on renovation of the Phoneix Island when he took it over. He told me that the termites were really bad inside the place, and every time they fixed a wall, another one would crash down. Mr. Wong ended up selling the Phoenix Island back to Del Webb a year later. He couldn't remember how long Del tried to continue to operate the place, but eventually he knew that the place was sold to a Canadian land development company. They razed the place and an office building now stands in it's place.

The Denver Islands stayed open until 1983, when the building was sold. It has been several different restaurants since, none of them have lasted very long.

At the end of our chat, Mr. Wong disappeared for a miniute and returned with the few pictures that he could find. He gave them to me to keep because I was so interested in these places. They have discolored a little.

Exterior aerial shot

Exterior shot, this looks like the image on the matchbook cover

A couple of interior shots

The background information about these places make the mugs, menus and postcards much more interesting don't you think?

Mr. Wong got to spend some time in some great restaurants, Don the Beachcomber (Chicago), the Aku Aku (Las Vegas) and owned the Islands (Denver and Phoneix).

[ Edited by: ZuluMagoo 2007-05-06 18:10 ]



Amazing !! Thanks so much for posting those great pics and history . All the great background info from your interview, and photos from Mr. Wong himself give such a great history and picture of what the place was like. Really wonderful stuff !


I would have just about had a heart-attack if an old owner of a famous tiki restaurant gave me his personal collection of photos. Those are absolutely priceless! You must have made a good impression during your interview. Congratulations and thanks for sharing with us.



What a super post! THANKS!

Ok, here's the last few pics that Mr. Wong gave to me.

Here's the matchbook cover from the Denver island (my pics turned out kind of dark)

And a few of the interior, that's Mr. Wong on the left

The dark area at the bottom of the photo is really a pool of water. You have to cross over a bridge to get to the dining room. There is also faux lava rock along all of the walls with several smaller waterfalls that spash down into the pool.

[ Edited by: ZuluMagoo on 2003-06-26 12:28 ]

[ Edited by: ZuluMagoo on 2003-06-26 12:30 ]


I just came across a letter that George Nakashima sent to me in 2004, in which he listed this one among his many designs.

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