The measure of success for Greg Paul is being able to surf all day and sling drinks all night.
It’s no surprise, then, that Paul has embarked on a business venture–centered on the beach lifestyle but anchored in downtown Wilmington–to hopefully do just that.
Paul recently opened Freaky Tiki Country Club, 723 N. Fourth St., a Polynesian-style bar complete with torches, sand and a hammock out back.
“I’m basically in the surfing business,” Paul said. “And, you know, the culture of that is very Polynesian.”
Traveling extensively in Costa Rica and living in Hawaii, Paul spent a lot of time hanging out in tiki bars. But don’t let his laidback lifestyle fool you–Paul is bursting with entrepreneurial spirit.
In the early 80s, he opened the first Hot Wax Surf Shop in Atlantic Beach before helping his brother, Michael, start up a store here in Wilmington. Paul has also been a backer for a handful of area bars and is the owner of Freaky Tiki Hammocks.
“I always wanted a small bar for myself,” he noted.
When it came time to finally scope out a location, Paul first considered his home turf and his first love–Carolina Beach.
“But then I realized there’s nothing going on in wintertime down there, and there are already a lot of great bars there where I hang out, lots of good little tiki bars,” he said.
So, he set his sight on the downtown scene, eventually running across a “For Rent” sign in a unassuming storefront in the burgeoning Brooklyn Arts district. The home of Freaky Tiki once stood as a gentleman’s poker lounge, a nightclub and, Paul thinks, a hair salon.
The front room may be cozy, but it doesn’t feel crowded. Pastel coral and teal walls brighten the bar area, which is backlit at night, and the decor is straight out of “Blue Hawaii.”
But meandering through the neighborhood-style watering hole—which naturally specializes in fresh fruit rum and vodka cocktails—patrons will find some hidden gems just down the hallway.
There’s a lounge area, tucked away in the back, with a flat screen viewing some of the best of the worst B movies of all time and a small stage for karaoke and acoustic performances.
Venture farther and you’ll find a darkened room that houses the always-free black-light pool table.
And led out back along the astro-turf carpet is a tropical patio, adorned with plenty of tables and chairs, a sand pit and a colorful hammock.
It’s the kind of place that could draw a mixed crowd—from the beachgoers venturing out to a destination location to the nearby residents of hip high rise condos and professionals from PPD—and keep them coming back for more.
And that would be just fine for Paul.
“If this place is successful, it means I’ll be at work at night and surfing all day,” he said. “I don’t really care if this becomes a late-night bar. I’d be happy if we opened at 4 to a good crowd and were quiet and cleared out by midnight.”
Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.