When Branden Powers, the creative mind behind Golden Tiki, decided to bring an Evel Knievel-themed pizza spot called Evel Pie to 508 Fremont Street, he needed someone to convert the jumbled images in his head and the memorabilia stored in countless crates and boxes into a workable, inviting restaurant. For that, he turned to Lieuchi Fine, the wife of Powers’ business partner, Jeffrey. Fine served as the designer for her husband’s Summerlin concept Daily Kitchen, but even she admits that didn’t quite prepare her for her current undertaking.
“I could do [Daily Kitchen] all day long,” she says. “It was sort of homey and more my style. This Evel thing is more interesting. Branden is like the magic man—he’s an anomaly. And I just have to take his ideas and say no to a lot of them, and then he [talks me into] some other ones. It’s an interesting collaboration.”
With Powers, Fine faces the blessing—and sometimes curse—of dealing with an all-out Knievel devotee. Her knowledge of the legendary stuntman, however, is a bit more casual.
“Growing up, I remember Evel,” she says. “I don’t remember his stunts, per se. But I remember the great pride he took in his suits—they were always these crisp white suits with his matching bike. And he had great hair.”
Powers, however, has been collecting Evel-themed items for a while now, securing them from sources as diverse as eBay and Knievel’s son Kelly, a partner in the venture. The interior of the pizza place, which is being kept under wraps until a grand unveiling, is reportedly filled with sealed boxes full of memorabilia. And Powers, whose knack for collecting has made Golden Tiki an adventure in kitsch, insists he has no recollection of what’s in each until he opens them. But they were not secured with any consideration of how they might work together in a restaurant.
“Branden’s a great big-idea guy,” Fine says diplomatically. “So I fill in the blanks. There’s a lot of, ‘That’s not gonna work. This doesn’t go together. This wood finish doesn’t work with this.’”
Fine says her greatest challenges have been with items that are just too big to work in the space, which has been home to Radio City Pizza and most recently the fondue spot F. Pigalle. She’s already put her foot down on at least one motorcycle and a custom T-shirt press. But she’s given in on a taxidermied wild sheep.
And then there are the fire features.
“We have talked a lot about pyro,” Fine says, laughing. “I love the pyro idea, but it’s a commitment. It’s still on the board. Love the idea, but we could also achieve that doing smoke and lights.”
Despite Fine’s calming influence, the restaurant still promises to be a manic menagerie for the senses. We’ll see just how manic she allows her partner to get at the opening later this month.