Kahiki History Told Anew in Kahiki Supper Club: A Polynesian ParadiseSeptember 22, 2014 11:30 am Anne Evans
What else is left to be said of the Kahiki? When Doug Motz gave us a history lesson a couple of years ago, he covered quite a bit. Little did he know that that column would lead to an opportunity to delve deeper into the topic and discover even more memories, more history, and new lost drink recipes.
Motz hadn’t always thought he would be an author.
“As a kid I wanted to be a minister,” he says. “I can still recall putting on my Dad’s bathrobe and having “church” in our garage for my little brother Andy and baby sister Beth. I always loved to read, though, and can credit my parents and my grandmother Motz for really cultivating that interest.”
Motz grew up in Reynoldsburg and moved to Columbus to attend OSU in 1985, living here ever since.
“In college, I studied the history of the Austrian Empire and had always been interested in history in general,” he says. “When Todd [Popp] and I bought an older Columbus house in the Old Oaks Historic District, I became very interested in the history of my neighborhood and that is when the local history bug bit me.”
Motz has spent much of his professional life around books, starting as a bookseller in Clintonville’s Pearls of Wisdom. He then opened An Open Book in the Short North in 1994 with co-owner Michael Lindsey.
“I have never worked harder or longer at a job that paid me less that I loved so very VERY much,” he says.
After that, he went to the Wexner Center and managed the store there for several years, helping to open a satellite store at Easton. Then, he I found real joy a few years later running The Library Store inside Main Library for the Friends of the Columbus Metropolitan Library. It was at The Library Store that things would start to set up for the Kahiki book.
“I was working at The Library Store and David Meyers’ book Look to Lazarus had just come out,” he remembers. “I was carrying it at the store and congratulated him on it. He said it was the best selling book History Press ever published and was looking for another topic that would spark similar interest. I had just written a wildly popular History Lesson article about the Kahiki for Columbus Underground and shared it with him. I said that in my opinion, the Kahiki was the only other “lost” Columbus artifact that would generate as much interest as Lazarus but if he wrote a book about it, I would ask that I be included.”
In December of 2013, Meyers got in touch with Motz and asked if he was still interested in writing the Kahiki book with his daughter Elise Meyers Walker, Jeff Chenault. And he said yes.
“The four of us interviewed as many people as we could who were involved with the restaurant,” says Motz.
For Motz, the best part was interviewing owners Lee Henry and Bill Sapp, along with the first Maitre’ d Bill Harrison.
“Hearing them tell the stories and listening as their voices caught for a moment and seeing their eyes light up as they remembered a funny story… that was the best part for me.”
Even though Motz had grown up close to the Kahiki, he only visited a handful of times.
“I remember my mom taking my cub scout troop there when I was a little kid,” he says. “I was fascinated by the clam shell wash basins, the flaming Easter Island Heads that flanked the door (Moai) and the Rain Forest that erupted into a thunderstorm every 20 minutes. It seemed like magic to me as a 7 year old!”
Motz has been actively collecting Kahiki memorabilia for most of his life. “I still have my original tiki necklace my mom bought me when I was 7!”
He also feels fortunate to own one of the original Kahiki ash trays made by Marcy Sapp.
“Marcy made ashtrays and several drink mugs -including the Zombie- by hand in her basement,” he says. “It has a circular pattern impressed into the sides that she did with a pencil eraser.”
After the book’s publishing, stories continue to come in. Motz’s parents shared with him a special tale that he never had realized growing up.
“Sandro Conti used to send a woman to my parents’ house to collect mint leaves,” he says. “Apparently my great-grandmother had some delicious variety of mint that he somehow found out about and used it in Kahiki drinks. My folks always had us use it in iced tea at the house and I thought all mint tasted like it. Who knew?”
Many mourned when the Kahiki was razed in 2000.
“The Kahiki was a landmark that was uniquely ours,” says Motz. “It provided a sense of wonder and excitement that has been lost.”
Motz hopes the new book will allow so many folks to reminisce about their own memories.
“Hopefully it will give people who never got to visit a sense of the wonder and magic that really filled the place,” he says.
Kahiki Supper Club: A Polynesian Paradise in Columbus is available at Acorn Books, the Book Loft, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.
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