Inside a nondescript building in Whittier, less than an hour outside of LA, is the treasure trove of tiki that is Oceanic Arts. It’s basically a one-stop shop for anybody looking to build a home tiki bar or throw a big luau (though I suppose your second stop would probably be a good liquor store).
But supplying bamboo, lauhala matting and carvings to the masses is just the tip of the iceberg for them. They’re also responsible for the decor of landmarks like the Enchanted Tiki Room and the Tonga Room…
Not to mention numerous films and television shows ranging from “Gilligan’s Island” to the “Pirates of the Caribbean” sequels to my personal favorite: “Saved by the Bell.” (A piece of paper at the front desk lists some of their many credits.)
There’s also sections filled with nautical items like port and starboard lanterns, cork floats, glass floats, rigging, life preservers and even mermaid figureheads. (Although some items are only for rent, and others are even just for show.)
Leroy Schmaltz started Oceanic Arts with Bob Van Oosting in 1957, after cultivating his talent for carving tikis in the style of…Oceanic art! Check out the book/catalog “Night of the Tiki: The Art of Shag, Schmaltz and Selective Primitive Oceanic Carvings” for more on their history.
And they’ve been running this business for more than fifty years! “Almost every sitcom will eventually have an episode that has some tropical setting in it….We’ll wind up doing it,” said Schmaltz in “Night of the Tiki.”
These shell and tapa lamps are just amazing, though alas, out of my price range. I can dream!
Here’s a little area where significant others can relax while the pocketbook damage is being done. (If Mr. Hockey hadn’t been out of town that weekend, you probably would have seen him here.)
The display cases are filled with tiki tablelamps and vintage and recent mugs, including one that commemorates themselves! These are just for admiring, though there are some Tiki Farm mugs available to buy in another area.
The warehouse is only open weekdays, plus Saturdays from 10 a.m.-1 p.m., so I’d suggest making it an early trip to ensure plenty of browsing time. I picked up a couple things for my tiki room, but probably the most useful purchase was their catalog ($10). It lists pictures and pricing for lots of their stock, so next time I can go in with a clearer idea of what I want and what’s in my budget.
Oceanic Arts Tropical Decor
12414 Whittier Blvd.
Whittier, CA 90602