Home Tiki Bar Lights Up Central Avenue
Compared to the hustle and bustle of the Boulevard at night, Central Avenue in Ship Bottom is a quiet beach road. While drivers honk and push through yellow lights and crowds spill out of the bars on the main drag, one block over on Central, kids meander in and out of the road on their bicycles.
But when Peter Maszczak and his family are in town, one block on Central Avenue is lit like the Vegas Strip. The Maszczaks bring a party with them when they vacation in Ship Bottom. Their upstairs room sleeps 19 people.
“It’s like a frat house,” said Gillian Maszczak, Peter’s wife. “It’s just bed, bed, bed, bed.”
Peter said, “When we’re down, it’s a party. We’re here to party.”
The main party attraction at the Maszczak house is The Tiki Bar in the front yard, a converted pop-up camper that Peter modified to turn into a “party bus.” It is fully stocked with drinks, a cotton candy and a popcorn machine, a blender, and an external grill attachment. The beds at each end of the camper were removed and stored upstairs in the “dorms.” Now the front end of the camper is a beer pong table – though Peter said, “I’m 40 and I’m getting beyond that” – and the back end is surrounded by stools and tiki torches. Peter described the back bar as “the hangout zone, where you hang out and watch TV.” The TV is set up among the couches inside the camper and plays reality shows or sports, the kind of ambient television that would be on inside any bar.
The inside of the tiki bar is covered in glo-paint. Under the awning on the side of the camper there is a laser light machine that simulates a disco ball, for night-time dance parties. The area around the awning is lit by neon palm trees and Solo cup Christmas lights dangling all around. These accessories illuminate the area at night, and announce every party at the Maszczak house.
Peter got the idea to build a home tiki bar when Gillian’s cousin came to visit their Ship Bottom home and brought his small portable tiki bar with him for the vacation. That’s when Peter, who is a construction worker and describes himself as a “constructive person,” decided to try to build a bar of his own. Peter “went home, looked for pop-up campers in the newspaper, and found a woman selling one for $1,100.” The camper was wrecked, and “the woman felt bad for me. She said she’ll give me the thing for free, not knowing I was gonna rip the thing totally apart and turn it into a tiki bar anyway.”
The Tiki Bar, for Peter, is not just a party machine for adults. His five kids climb all over the couches and the roof, and generally use the converted camper like it is their own playhouse. The Tiki Bar “was really just to get ’em outside,” Peter said, referring to his kids. “We’re down the shore. I don’t wanna be stuck in the house watching TV.” So he built a fun place for the kids to go hang outside, and he said they “love it down here. They’re so used to coming down and just hanging out and being outside.”
Getting the kids out of the house is crucial for Peter and Gillian, especially around meal times. “When there’s five kids in the house, you know what the mess is like when I’m feeding them?” Peter said. “It’s so nice to kick them outside, get them out at the table, and when they’re done, just spray it down with a hose.”
But the kids aren’t the only ones who make a mess in the trailer. Peter built both the front and the back bars on a slope so that beer would drain out the sides with no hassle.
Though he doesn’t party like he used to, he said he still enjoys a tailgate, and he brings the tiki bar with him when he can. “I’m more of a tailgater at a friend’s house, like if my friend’s throwing a little party and he’s looking for an extra kick, I’m like ‘I’m bringin the tiki bar!’ So I’ll go over half an hour early and set it up, then leave it up all night and come back in the morning and break it down.”
The set-up and the take-down, he said, are very simple. It doesn’t take more than half an hour. And with a 2-inch ball, the trailer hitches to his truck so he can easily take his Ship Bottom party-mobile on the road.
— Tim Hone