Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Tiki Time: Exotical

As much nostalgia as I have for the places that have, after years of return visits, become part of our wacky tacky repertoire, there is something so exciting about discovering and putting a "new" landmark on our map!  In fact, my favorite part about writing this blog is getting suggestions of cool places to visit from wacky tacky aficionados.  I love getting a tip, gassing up the wacky wagon, and hitting the road to explore!  When our pal told us about Exotical in Downey, CA, we could hardly wait to go on a tiki adventure.

It was just at the very end of last year, thanks to some good friends, that we found a gem among the greater Los Angeles landscape, the city of Downey.  You might have read our blog posts about the City of Downey's Rose Parade float and our grub session at Bob's Big Boy Broiler, but we just knew that we hadn't exhausted all of the fun that Downey had to offer.  In fact, just down the road from Bob's is Downey's answer to crystal blue waters of the tropics - Exotical Hawaiian Apparel (est. 1964).

Family owned and operated since day one, Exotical offers a bounty of Hawaiian shirts, MuuMuus, cabana sets, hats, leis, and plenty more Polynesian goods and apparel for the kanes and wahines in your life.  Beautiful music whisks patrons away to islands as they peruse rack upon rack of flowered shirts.  

We thought she couldn't get any taller!

A selection of children's cabana sets

If the canned music isn't enough, there is a whole shelf of ukuleles, an inherited collection of the owner, that can be tested out.  He said that he didn't have the patience to learn the instrument himself, but he loved hearing others play.  It didn't take Mary but a few moments to tune one up and start to strum.

You can see that she test drove more than one model.

And then continued her musical tour of the islands on the drums

Unsatisfied by instruments alone, here she is trying her
hand at poi balls.  Out of fear, I took this photo from
a distance.

The neatest part about Exotical is that there is dead stock Hawaiian clothing mixed among the new offerings.  When the owner saw us picking out some of the vintage stuff, he offered to take us to the storage room out back to look through some additional racks of clothing; we didn't have to think twice.  Of course, on the short walk back there, visions of Shaheen danced in our heads.  Well, there was a Shaheen...

...but it was a 70's/80's style that just wasn't quite
what we were looking for

Back inside the store, there was still so much to see.  Our favorite part of the decor was the dressing rooms.  The women's dressing rooms were styled after the architecture of Polynesian longhouses and each booth was upholstered in an animal print!  Exotical is such a luau for the eyes, that I forgot to get any pictures of me; don't be too downhearted.

The men's dressing room was not as inspired, but had
cool wall paper and a neat tiki lamp.

Because we are the closest point to Hawaii on the mainland, there is so much of the island lifestyle present in Southern California; sometimes, I think we're just "Waikiki East."  

I'm aware of the childishness, but when I see all these leis, I can't help but
think of a million "lei" jokes/puns.  I'll just stick with the Wayne's World
classic, "Come on you wanna lei me"...

One of my favorite representations of the island is my nephew.  Born on Oahu to my sister and my islander bra-in-law, with a middle name like Pomaika'i O'Kalani, there is no doubting his heritage.  We didn't buy much at Exotical during our visit, but we couldn't resist picking up a little something for our favorite "hapa haole."  

The living embodiment of the Hula Boy doll above, no?

Is it wrong to be jealous of a two year old?  He is everything I will never be - perpetually tan, curly of hair, and just so dang cute!!!  It seemed weird walking up to the checkout with a pink set, but this kid is the only person in our family who could pull it off.  Honestly, he would look cute in a paper sack!  On second thought, maybe I should have saved my money and just put him in a paper sack.

The "little grass shack" check stand

So, if you wanna go back to your little grass shack, but you can't afford the fare to Kealakekua, be sure to stop into Exotical to get your island fix.

Call me indecisive, but I really found it hard to pick a version of "My Little Grass Shack."
So here is Arthur Godfrey, Teresa Brewer, and The Andrews Sisters all singing the same tune.

8136 Firestone Blvd.
Downey, CA

Cheers & Aloha!

Mr. Tiny


  1. What a great place, and how cool to have a private look at the vintage!

    1. We felt very special until he led us out back and had to unlock three locks on a big metal door that opened into a dark room. It was almost like the beginning of a horror movie, but we made it out okay!

  2. What a fantastic store!! And oh my goodness I just want to squeeze your nephew's cheeks. What a cutie patootey!

    1. I know I am biased, but he is pretty cute, isn't he? It might be hard to tell because we haven't placed a quarter next to him for scale/perspective, but he is the biggest 2 year old I've ever seen. The set we bought for him was for a 5 year old!!!

  3. Glad you went there! Isn't it awesome?!? I used to love going in there when I was a teen and just talking to the owners... funniest thing was that directly across the street there used to be a strictly Death Metal record store called "Death" or something like that... it was there for a few years in the 90s. Awesome post!!

    1. Thanks for the lead. We also hit another hot spot based on your recommendation - STAY TUNED!!!

  4. Awesome store! I will have to be sure to check it out next time I'm in the area. Will you both be at Tiki Oasis in a couple weeks? I'll be sure to say hi if I bump into you!

    1. I'm not sure if we'll make it to TO. As much as I want to, we might have some other plans in the works. You should definitely check out the store if you're ever in the area.

  5. How cool!!! Your little nephew looks adorable in his new outfit, and I think he looks a lot like you!! With hair! LOL Family resemblance!! My mom used to love Hawaiian music back in the 60's and I remember we had a bunch of albums. Who knows whatever happened to them. These days, my niece in California, who is a real beach gal, is learning to play the ukulele, mostly teaching herself!! Thanks for the cool tour!!! :)

    1. Hahahaha...a cute, tan version of me, maybe. His dad is VERY Polynesian looking so we were surprised how strongly our family's genes were represented! I bought a ukulele because I thought I could learn, but I am absolutely hopeless!!!

  6. Must go soon!!! Like today!!

  7. I've been meaning to check this place out. Seeing as I'm this close(holding up thumb and index finger an inch apart) to being able to play the soundtrack from The Enchanted Tiki Room in my living room I don't know why I haven't. If you go on anymore tropical/tiki adventures let me know! I'd love to visit the wacky with you...especially since all I do is sit around in my tiki room all day long these days.

    1. Since you're only about an inch and a half away, I strongly urge you to check it out. Truth to tell, the stock isn't mind-blowing if you're used to seeing vintage Hawaiian/tiki stuff, but it is a good resource; I'm happy to know that small, niche-market businesses are still thriving in Southern California. You are always welcome on our adventures. I always think it would be fun to do a blogger meet up at a fun location!

    2. yes yes yes! I've been wanting to go to the California Heritage Museum to see the Aloha Spirit Exhibit...that could be fun for us bloggers(even thought I've been the worse blogger ever lately!).

      And although I love vintage Hawaiian...I just love about anything that is Hawaiian kitsch and the cheesier the better!

  8. Im at a loss for words! Exotical is just so dang neat, and since 1963 holy crap. love, love, love it and adding a trip there to the bucket list!

    1. Uh oh, I hope I didn't oversell it. It is definitely a great place, but just make sure you have other items in the area on your bucket list; I'd hate to disappoint! Stop by Bob's Big Boy Broiler for a burger too!