Whittier’s Oceanic Arts, delighting Tiki enthusiasts the world over, closes its doors – Daily Bulletin

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Since 1956, LeRoy Schmaltz and Bob Van Oosting have been sculpting and selling tiki and Polynesian-inspired artwork and sets to restaurants, hotels and movie studios, especially Disney. But those days are drawing to a close.

They are closing their Whittier-based business, Oceanic Arts, located at 12414 Whittier Blvd., declaring it’s time to retire.

  • Co-owners LeRoy Schmaltz, left, and Bob Van Oosting of Oceanic Arts sell tiki art, statues, imported decorations, signs, glass balls, canoes, blankets and rugs, currently in a warehouse at hotels, resorts, homes and at Disneyland at a company founded in 1956 that will soon close in Whittier on Tuesday, November 30, 2021. (Photo by Alex Gallardo, collaborating photographer)

  • Oceanic Arts sells tiki art, statues, imported decorations, signs, glass balls, canoes, thatched roofs and mats, currently from a warehouse to hotels, resorts, homes and Disneyland in a business founded in 1956 that will soon close in Whittier, Tuesday, November 30, 2021. (Photo by Alex Gallardo, collaborating photographer)

  • Oceanic Arts sells tiki art, statues, imported decorations, signs, glass balls, canoes, thatched roofs and mats, currently from a warehouse to hotels, resorts, homes and Disneyland in a business founded in 1956 that will soon close in Whittier, Tuesday, November 30, 2021. (Photo by Alex Gallardo, collaborating photographer)

  • Oceanic Arts sells tiki art, statues, imported decorations, signs, glass balls, canoes, thatched roofs and mats, currently from a warehouse to hotels, resorts, homes and Disneyland in a business founded in 1956 that will soon close in Whittier, Tuesday, November 30, 2021. (Photo by Alex Gallardo, collaborating photographer)

  • Oceanic Arts sells tiki art, statues, imported decorations, signs, glass balls, canoes, thatched roofs and mats, currently from a warehouse to hotels, resorts, homes and Disneyland in a business founded in 1956 that will soon close in Whittier, Tuesday, November 30, 2021. (Photo by Alex Gallardo, collaborating photographer)

  • Oceanic Arts sells tiki art, statues, imported decorations, signs, glass balls, canoes, thatched roofs and mats, currently from a warehouse to hotels, resorts, homes and Disneyland in a business founded in 1956 that will soon close in Whittier, Tuesday, November 30, 2021. (Photo by Alex Gallardo, collaborating photographer)

  • Co-owners LeRoy Schmaltz, left, and Bob Van Oosting of Oceanic Arts sell tiki art, statues, imported decorations, signs, glass balls, canoes, blankets and rugs, currently in a warehouse at hotels, resorts, homes and at Disneyland at a company founded in 1956 that will soon close in Whittier on Tuesday, November 30, 2021. (Photo by Alex Gallardo, collaborating photographer)

  • Co-owners LeRoy Schmaltz, left, and Bob Van Oosting of Oceanic Arts sell tiki art, statues, imported decorations, signs, glass balls, canoes, blankets and rugs, currently in a warehouse at hotels, resorts, homes and at Disneyland at a company founded in 1956 that will soon close in Whittier on Tuesday, November 30, 2021. (Photo by Alex Gallardo, collaborating photographer)

  • Co-owners LeRoy Schmaltz, left, and Bob Van Oosting of Oceanic Arts sell tiki art, statues, imported decorations, signs, glass balls, canoes, blankets and rugs, currently in a warehouse at hotels, resorts, homes and at Disneyland at a company founded in 1956 that will soon close in Whittier on Tuesday, November 30, 2021. (Photo by Alex Gallardo, collaborating photographer)

  • Oceanic Arts sells tiki art, statues, imported decorations, signs, glass balls, canoes, thatched roofs and mats, currently from a warehouse to hotels, resorts, homes and Disneyland in a business founded in 1956 that will soon close in Whittier, Tuesday, November 30, 2021. (Photo by Alex Gallardo, collaborating photographer)

  • Oceanic Arts sells tiki art, statues, imported decorations, signs, glass balls, canoes, thatched roofs and mats, currently from a warehouse to hotels, resorts, homes and Disneyland in a business founded in 1956 that will soon close in Whittier, Tuesday, November 30, 2021. (Photo by Alex Gallardo, collaborating photographer)

  • Oceanic Arts sells tiki art, statues, imported decorations, signs, glass balls, canoes, thatched roofs and mats, currently from a warehouse to hotels, resorts, homes and Disneyland in a business founded in 1956 that will soon close in Whittier, Tuesday, November 30, 2021. (Photo by Alex Gallardo, collaborating photographer)

  • Oceanic Arts sells tiki art, statues, imported decorations, signs, glass balls, canoes, thatched roofs and mats, currently from a warehouse to hotels, resorts, homes and Disneyland in a business founded in 1956 that will soon close in Whittier, Tuesday, November 30, 2021. (Photo by Alex Gallardo, collaborating photographer)

  • Oceanic Arts sells tiki art, statues, imported decorations, signs, glass balls, canoes, thatched roofs and mats, currently from a warehouse to hotels, resorts, homes and Disneyland in a business founded in 1956 that will soon close in Whittier, Tuesday, November 30, 2021. (Photo by Alex Gallardo, collaborating photographer)

  • Co-owners LeRoy Schmaltz, left, and Bob Van Oosting of Oceanic Arts sell tiki art, statues, imported decorations, signs, glass balls, canoes, blankets and rugs, currently in a warehouse at hotels, resorts, homes and at Disneyland at a company founded in 1956 that will soon close in Whittier on Tuesday, November 30, 2021. (Photo by Alex Gallardo, collaborating photographer)

  • Co-owners LeRoy Schmaltz, left, and Bob Van Oosting of Oceanic Arts sell tiki art, statues, imported decorations, signs, glass balls, canoes, blankets and rugs, currently in a warehouse at hotels, resorts, homes and at Disneyland at a company founded in 1956 that will soon close in Whittier on Tuesday, November 30, 2021. (Photo by Alex Gallardo, collaborating photographer)

“We’ve been doing this for 65 years and we’re getting older,” Van Oosting said in an interview on Tuesday, Nov. 30 at the store. “We’re both 80 years old. This is the main reason.

Still, they are sad to leave the company.

“We love the business and are great friends,” Van Oosting said. “We have had so many clients who have become personal friends. “

Although their retail store is now closed, they still have back orders to complete and a lot of artwork to sell. They think they will be totally bankrupt by March or April.

Whittier Mayor Joe Vinatieri said he was happy for the two, but he is sorry they are closing.

“It’s a specialty business in Whittier that has drawn people from all over, including Hollywood,” Vinatieri said. “It’s been an integral part of our community for years. “

Schmaltz made his art debut in an art class at Whittier High School taught by Yosh Nakamura, also known as one of the last survivors of the famous all-Japanese and American WWII combat team that then taught at Rio Hondo College.

“He was a mentor of mine,” Schmalz said of Nakamura, who taught at Whittier from 1952 to 1963.

Nakamura said he has been following Schmalz’s work since graduating from high school.

“I’ve been really proud of him since he graduated from high school,” Nakamura said. “He did very well. “

Schmalz and Van Oosting first met at Mt. San Antonio College. Schmaltz was an art student who carved in wood and was interested in the production of tribal masks, while Van Oosting was a business student.

Their business took off after returning from a nearly four-month trip to the South Pacific.

Their work – which includes fiberglass tikis, outrigger canoes, tropical seashells, pufferfish, tiki lights, and bamboo and reed fences – has been seen on large and small screens. The “Pirates of the Caribbean” films and television series such as “CSI: Miami” showcased their artifacts.

They were located in several places, twice evicted by a prominent estate, making room for Highway 605 and the Ralphs Market in Whittier. They moved to their current location in 1990.

As the news of their closure is announced, they receive hundreds of emails saying they are sad about the closure of Oceanic Arts.

“It was a paradise,” Van Oosting said. “Everyone who buys from us is so sad that we are leaving. We had so much fun.

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