Hello and welcome to another installment of Cats Like Us Home Tiki Bar Series. This month we visit with Mandi Shepp and Chris "Ahab" Shepp at their home bar, The Rusty Flamingo. The Tiki bar is located in their sun room that has an attached outdoor patio which doubles as extra space in the summer!
Hello Mandi and Chris, please share a little about yourselves: Outside of our jobs (Chris is a salesman and Mandi is a rare books librarian at the Marion H. Skidmore Library in Lily Dale, NY), we enjoy exploring new things through travel, mixology and cooking, homebrewing, and research for the podcast that we co-host along with our friends. We like unique flavors, and we’re always experimenting with something in the kitchen or the bar. Together we’ve made some interesting concoctions, such as a fruitcake-infused bourbon for the holidays, and you’ll see two of our homebrews in the photos -- a mole stout with cinnamon, cacao nibs, and roasted poblanos, and RurAle, a pale ale crafted by the Rural Libraries Roundtable group of homebrewing librarians (yes, Virginia, there are homebrewing librarians).
What got you into the Tiki Culture? There’s something infinitely appealing about the combination of pretty colors, kitsch, and booze in Tiki Culture. While Chris enjoys the aesthetic aspect of TIki Culture, Mandi enjoys it for a more anthropological reason; she first began travelling to tropical islands with her family in her teenage years, and much like Robert Louis Stevenson, she was immediately entranced with the beautiful environment and dramatically different culture. The Tiki Culture and its related kitsch has been a fabulous way for her to combine her love of the tropics with her passion for loud colors and vintage treasures. Mandi began collecting Tiki items in middle school, and hasn’t stopped since.
What inspired you to have a Tiki bar in your house? Conveniently, our really awesome landlady included the bar setup with our house, which was really what made this bar space take off. The bar itself is a vintage piece (circa 1970’s), which we’ve fixed up with new shelves to provide better support. The sunroom was a nice location for a tiki bar, as it has the ability to expand outside to the patio, making this space our little slice of woodland paradise!
Do you have a favorite Tiki artist(s)? While Chris likes Mandi’s artwork the best (most of the canvas paintings in the bar are her creations -- the skeletal mermaid pop pieces and the steel flamingo sculpture are his favorites), Mandi likes the vibrant colors and the smooth linework of the SHAG (Josh Agle) prints that also decorate the bar -- many of which are Tiki-based pieces, some of which are limited edition prints that were created for the anniversary of Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland, and also for Disneyland’s recent 60th Anniversary celebration. For sculptural Tiki work, our favorites are the Tiki bowls created by Kevin Kidney to celebrate the revamping of Disney’s Polynesian Resort at Walt Disney World in Orlando.
Where did you find the pieces that are in your Tiki bar? While many of the pieces in the bar are Disney-based Tiki pieces (most of which are grouped on the table with chairs), many more are pieces from islands that Mandi has obtained in her travels. The beachcomber pieces, like the puffer fish hanging from the ceiling, are pieces that Chris and Mandi picked up on their honeymoon road trip to Florida. Others, of course, came from Cats Like Us and Tiki Farm!
Do you collect anything specific? If you haven’t been able to tell, Mandi is an absolute Disneyphile, and collects vintage Disneyana (particularly Fantasia-related) and Disney Tiki items. In addition, we collect strange things that we enjoy, like vintage toys, paranormal tchotchkes (Mandi recently acquired a spirit trumpet!), and kitchen gadgets.
What are your prized Tiki possessions? While the Disney Tiki items are cool and somewhat difficult to come across outside of Disney parks, our most prized Tiki is the GWAR Tiki mug from GWARBar in Richmond, VA. This was a really cool restaurant and space from one of our favorite bands, and we were thrilled that the Tiki mugs were available during our visit! The black and white striped mask on the wall is another prized possession, it’s a carving from Fiji that Mandi acquired during her island travels.
Are you currently working on any projects? Always! In addition to the strawberry-basil rum infusion on the bar and the two homebrews fermenting in the carboys, our current brew project is a ginger braggot (a type of ancient honey-based beer). We’re also always working on our podcast, This Is My Normal Talking Voice (previously known as the Thirteenth Four -- which recently released a farewell Tiki-themed episode!) - A podcast of Good Trivia For Bad People.
Thank you so much to Mandi and Chris for giving us a tour around The Rusty Flamingo!
Until next time, Aloha!