By: Chelsea Marquis, Staff Writer
A former tanning salon is now home to a wide musical lineup from rock to indie. Ian Smith and Cecil Gardner founded Sun Tiki Studios in the fall of 2017. The space had been vacant for a number of years.
“I had been toying with the idea of a music venue-rental space combo for about 25 years, but hadn’t had the opportunity to make it happen yet,” said Smith. “Cecil was the initial spark of using this building.”
The idea began to come into fruition in the summer of 2017 when Smith, Gardner and some young people in the music community started talking about opening an affordable rental space. A carpenter and musician, Smith started renting out the Sun Tiki Tanning building in the fall.
“We kept the sign, we just scraped the word ‘tanning’ off the sign and put ‘studios.’ And
everyone seems to like that we took the building essentially as it was,” Smith said.
Gardner left the company earlier this year for other endeavors. With Smith working part-time to make alterations to the interior of the building, including adding a stage and a bar.
Sun Tiki Studios officially opened in April of 2018 as a music venue.
It continued to have shows until December of 2018, when the music venue was temporarily
closed for show to obtain a liquor license and to add more bathrooms, reopening in April 2019.
Smith credits his fiancée for continually being involved with the development of Sun Tiki
Studios, and help from his daughter, who runs the bar.
“Sun Tiki as a venue is perfect because it is not trying to be something that it is not…The sound is solid, there are always ear plugs available, artist merch for sale, a clean bathroom, and even reasonably priced drinks. Pretty hard to beat,” said Stephen Bennett, an undergrad student at USM.
Sun Tiki Studio hopes to expand its line up to have movie nights and music-comedy shows in the future.
Most shows are all ages. Any age requirements are posted with the event on
The average week has three shows with cover charges mostly under $10. Shows often showcase two or three artists.
Beyond having space for musicians to perform live shows, there is an hourly rental rehearsal space for anyone to use. Most rooms accommodate 3 to 4 people.
There is a large selection of instruments to choose from, including a set of Burundi drums and other uncommon instruments.
Having a space for musicians to collaborate with each other is something Smith is passionate about.
“The idea was to make a space that anyone could use, any time, and not have to have a lot of their own gear so if you play an instrument, or even if you can’t, you can just come in here with some friends and just try and see what you can do,” Smith said.