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RIP Tiki: Tur Mai Kai Kalamazoo, Michigan

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Though long neglected, a little known vintage Tiki oasis had been quietly chugging along until this November. The Tur Mai Kai was still alive in Kalamazoo Michigan though it had been called the Peking Palace for over a decade.

Few clues gave the Tiki explorer an indication of what had once been, in fact only the carved poles that flanked the red front doors remained. Inside, other remnants still were intact. They had largest bamboo swag lamp that we've ever seen. There were TONS of Oceanic Arts carved poles, a big faux lava waterfall that incorporated the face of a Moai as well as a giant Moai/stone fireplace. This, sadly, was mostly obscured by the drop ceiling that had been installed. There were many clues to the beauty that once was the Tur Mai Kai, very few masks and war clubs remained but the outline of many that were once attached to the wall were still visible.

When we discovered the restaurant we learned that it was family owned and it seems that they were responsible for the name change and were rather indifferent to the fantastic Tiki temple it once was. That said, they were very nice, and they still served delicious food and FANTASTIC tropical drinks– in Tiki mugs and Hula bowls no less!

We were there for diner to celebrate our birthdays at the end of last September and when we were in Kalamazoo again in November, it was gone! We had apparently missed a big sale, since according to the writing on the windows, they were "Closed! Everything must go!". After some detective work around town, we found out that they were apparently made an offer they could not refuse for the property and promptly sold the place. I guess they'll tear down the building and put some TGIMcAppleGarden chain restaurant or drug store in it's place. While not a pristine example of a vintage Tiki Palace, it's a sad loss just the same.

[ Edited by: boutiki on 2004-01-12 11:49 ]

That is sad news indeed! If they hadn't changed the name I would have found it years ago in my exhaustive 411 michigan search of every tiki name there is... (hut, hawaii, tiki, mai, kai, tai, aloha, etc)



That's where collecting becomes a real asset. We had an old Tur Mai Kai matchbook (page 131 top left corner of Tiki Quest. I think there is a menu in BOT also) and a hurricane glass with the same design on it. So we knew the address on Westnedge. When we found ourselves in Kalamazoo three years ago (we were actually considering moving there to live in an INCREDIBLE vintage modern home where we had acquired a Witco fountain and some early Eames chairs.) we had to check the address to see what remained– and sure enough...

Holy Crap!

I used to go to WMU and I would have been there all the time had I known. Where on Westnedge? Near what landmarks?

OK People, if you know of any incognito Tiki establishments, don't keep 'em secret. Especially here in Non-Cali where we don't have Tiki-Dairy Queens, Tiki-mailboxes, and Tiki-paved streets.


crap, crap, crap


The name change faked me out too:

I listed it as closed on TRT (p.149).

Well, at least that entry is accurate... now.

Wish you would have let us all know about it while it was still open, Duke!


It was on Westnedge right at the I94 overpass. The address was 5640 S. Westnedge. Even though we knew there was once a Tiki temple on that street, we make a habit of checking out old Chinese restaurants for remnants of Tiki days gone by. As I'm sure you know, back in the heyday many of them were decorated (even just a little) with bamboo, Tiki and pufferfish. And you never know what you'll find, so if we see a place that looks old and intriguing, we at least stop and do some recognizance.

Wow...did you check with the local architectual salvage and antique places to see what may have become of the contents?


Yea BK, I have two good connections in Kalamazoo, and we have been hounding them to try and help us score even just one of those poles. One is an antique dealer who went to the sale, but said every Tiki was gone by the time he got there.

It really bums me out. Another old Tiki bar closes with little fanfare, and slips into obscurity. Same thing happened at Beyond the Reef here in Chicago. And Amy and I knew the owner!

I know the feeling. Many times did I or other fellow urban archeologists approach the owners of sites that seemed endangered imploring them to inform us of any changes in decor or ownership, getting their promise to do so, and many times did the structures just dissappear without any warning.

Yeah, according to LeRoy the Tur Mai Kai was quite a place in it's heyday....

Ohh the pain,

I grew up in K'zoo and went the Tur Mai Kai for my Birthday every year. Unfortunately no pictures survived only one matchbook and a lot of memories.

[ Edited by: Midway Cafe on 2004-01-13 05:04 ]

Just an idea but maybe we could all form a Tiki/Polynesian Preservation Society with contributing dues so that when an establishment is considering closing up then the owners of these establishments would have the option of notifying a real organization instead of a few individuals. As contributing members we could then combine resources to help save the artifacts into a collective. A news mag or internet site could keep all of us informed on any potentials. Just my thoughts and of course there would be obstacles to overcome if this was realized.

Now back to my hamburger!

[ Edited by: jungletrader on 2004-01-13 15:27 ]


Found this today:

Cool! I like the label, "Exotic Cocktail", just in case you didn't know what you were drinking!

[ Edited by: bigbrotiki on 2004-12-15 11:55 ]

I have to kick myself in the A$$ for this one, me and the Mrs bood did a drive by when we lived in Kazoo and checked the front doors out one day after they were closed, they where just as stated in the first picture in this thread, unfortunately we where not as educated on this subject as we are now and that's as far as it went, now would be a different story, was great seeing these old pics.
Thank you for them

This old thread was what opened my eyes to the old Peking and the Tur Mai Kai. I live In Kazoo but never went to the Peking because we had another favorite restaurant on the other side of town. By the time I saw this post the Peking had closed.I went by the location the day the dozers took her down to the ground. I have done a bit of research on the TMK also but these photos of the interior are priceless. Thanks for posting.

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