June 2011

Relax. Enjoy Life. - Q&A with Derek Cassidy of the Tiki Hut

Author: Frank Dunne, Jr. | Photographer: Photography by Anne

Pictured from left to right: Carly Kammire and Derek Cassidy

It’s a sunny, balmy, breezy Wednesday morning, and I’m sitting at the Tiki Hut watching the tide roll in, sipping a bottle of water and chatting with Derek Cassidy, a guy who gets to hang out here every day. Not a bad way to make a dollar.

Cassidy’s been slinging the cold beverages at Hilton Head’s legendary thatched-roof beach bar for…how long has it been?
Derek Cassidy: Sixteen years. At least that’s what the customers tell me.

C2: Come on, sixteen years? Nobody keeps a job that long anymore!
DC: I’ll go back all the way to my grandfather. He said, “Find what you like, and if you only make a nickel, just do it over and over and over again. Basically, I wake up with a smile every day.

C2: So I guess you’ll be sticking around for a while?
DC: Why go anywhere else?

C2: Well, we did face the prospect of losing this place a little while back.
DC: Nothing’s happening. We’re set. We’re gonna be here forever. I’ll probably live and die here!

“I’m not dragging your body out of here!” chimed in Dana Maffo, one of Cassidy’s partners in crime behind the bar who’s been at the Tiki Hut for a decade herself.

C2: So that’s off the table?
DC: Yeah. The company (current ownership) is spending money on us. They put in new railings, a new deck, bought new chairs and umbrellas, the flat screen TVs, and made a lot of little improvements that the customers don’t see, but make us a better bar.

C2: That’s good news. You’d think that an island like Hilton Head would have ten Tiki Huts all up and down the beach, but it doesn’t. This is it, and that’s what makes it such a treasure.
DC: We’re the only place that’s right on the beach, the only one with beach volleyball, and we’re the closest you can get to drinking on the beach…legally.

C2: It’s iconic. It’s a signature like the Lighthouse. Everybody who comes to Hilton Head, Tiki Hut is on the to-do list. I remember one of my many visits before becoming a local was a long golf weekend with a bunch of my buddies. Even the guys who’d never been here knew we had to go to the Tiki Hut.
DC: There’s a group of guys who come every year from Poland for three days of golf and three days of drinking.

C2: Sounds more like three days of golf and six days of drinking.
DC: Probably right. Anyway, they say they can play golf anywhere, but they come to Hilton Head because of us.

C2: But it’s not just tourists.
DC: It’s everybody. All ages. You’ve got the 20-somethings in their bikinis, you’ve got the families on vacation, you’ve got the volleyballers, you’ve got the European guys with their little grape smugglers. Anybody and everybody who just wants to chill and hang out, they’re here. Local, semi-local, tourist, whatever. I’ve actually got some friends who are locals, and they come to the Tiki Hut because it’s the only time they get to see the beach, believe it or not.

C2: Speaking of which, let’s clear something up. Somewhere along the line, people got the notion that you gave preferential drink prices for locals. What’s up with that?
DC: I was interviewed for another article, and they wanted a top ten reasons to go to the Tiki Hut. I said the view and things like that, and where I said, “We set our prices to attract locals,” they wrote “set prices for locals.” We had people coming up and saying I want a daiquiri and I want the local price. We had to explain 20 or 30 times a day that our prices are the same for everyone.

C2: So you were misquoted? Taken out of context!
DC: Yes, so it’s a good thing you’re recording this! What I meant was we’re not a tourist trap. We’re not trying to charge $20 for a daiquiri. We’re trying to make sure that everybody comes here and comes back.

C2: Anything else that you’re just itching to tell everyone?
DC: Just relax and enjoy life.
C2: Amen to that.

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