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Today is December 13, 2019

Iconic Tiki turns 50

By Nancy Jo Maples

Iconic Tiki turns 50

Norma Thornton and her son Eddie Thornton have been delighting customers at the Tiki Restaurant, Lounge and Marina for five decades. Eddie serves as a board member of Singing River Electric Cooperative.

Celebrating 50 years of service, Tiki Restaurant, Lounge and Marina’s owners Eddie Thornton and his mother Norma continue their tradition of personally welcoming guests days and evenings.

The iconic restaurant, known for superb steaks and seafood, sits along the water’s edge on Mary Walker Drive in Gautier. Norma and her late husband William purchased it in May 1969 along with William’s twin, the late Walter Thornton. They bought it from Louis Temple who sold boats, motors and trailers at the spot. Temple appeased hungry customers by establishing a little café called the Tiki Room selling sandwiches and salads. The Thorntons kept the Tiki name concentrating on food, not boats.

During the 1970s, the Tiki grew in building size and customer base as its menu and reputation lured guests. It offered both a family eating environment and a supper club for finer dining that offered music and dancing. Prior to the wrath of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, the Tiki covered 12,000 square feet. Upstairs was the Tiki Too, a small piano bar.

After battling insurance companies for several years, the Tiki reopened in 2011 with 4,000 square feet. Today’s main dining room is upstairs. A decorative mural salvaged from Hurricane Katrina adorns one wall. The mural, made of Styrofoam, is painted with a view of the Tiki from the water. The open-air bottom deck serves food and showcases live music most nights. Slips along the dock allow easy access for boaters. The supper club was never rebuilt, but the dancefloor can still be seen in the parking lot by keen eyes.

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Nancy Jo Maples is an award-winning journalist who has been writing about Mississippi people and places for more than 30 years. Contact her at

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