Saving Trader Jon's

By Commander Robert Stumpf, U.S. Navy (Retired)

From a different perspective, Trader Jon's is a historic landmark, housed in a century-old building in the once-again booming section of downtown Pensacola. On the sidewalk out front stands a marker erected by the State of Florida, recognizing the establishment as a state historic site. Its future is important, not only to thousands of military patrons, but to local preservationists and history buffs who are loath to see it turned into another trendy shop or—worse—razed for a parking lot.

Recently, a group of civilian and former-military residents formed a nonprofit foundation to save this landmark of naval aviation. The Trader Jon's Preservation Squadron, Inc., is raising funds through private donations to buy the property outright, which will satisfy one of the Squadron's primary goals: to provide care and a comfortable lifestyle for the beloved Trader and his wife.

Once under the foundation's auspices, the vast collection of priceless aviation artifacts will be inventoried, cataloged, and temporarily stored. Then the premises will be upgraded to the latest building code and the entire building renovated. The original main bar will be restored in its traditional "aviation grunge" motif. Long-range plans include provisions for meeting rooms and a restaurant. The fundamental theme is to recreate the bar as it was in its heyday, while improving the infrastructure and amenities to provide a first-rate venue for reunions, receptions, and other activities.

The Save Trader's steering group includes leading Pensacola professionals—legal, banking, and accounting representatives; an architect who specializes in restoring historic buildings; and a dynamic Internet marketing company that has been instrumental in publicizing the project around the world. E-mail and a masterful web site ( ) have been the primary vehicles. Over the years, Trader Jon's built a huge patronage, but most are dispersed globally, having enjoyed Trader's while on duty in the Pensacola area. Cyber communications have proved most effective in reaching many of them quickly. This method is also much less expensive and labor intensive than mass mailings, although the Squadron plans for them as well. Despite having directly reached an estimated 30,000 individuals, expenses to date are virtually nil. All professional services and administrative leg work have been donated free of charge.

The far-flung nature of the establishment's clientele is akin to that of another Pensacola—indeed, a U.S.—institution: the National Museum of Naval Aviation adjacent to Forrest Sherman Field on the Naval Air Station. The Museum set a precedent and a standard when it dismantled the legendary Naval Air Station Cubi Point Officer's Club bar, imported it from the Philippines, and recreated it in inside the Museum.

While the Museum had no plans for a similar project to preserve Trader Jon's, it maintains a loose affiliation with the Trader Jon's Preservation Squadron. Should the Squadron lose its bid to acquire the property or otherwise fail to accomplish a permanent restoration, the Museum Foundation is to receive the Squadron's residual assets and assist with the preservation of Trader's aviation memorabilia.

There is little doubt among the Squadron's steering group that the project will succeed. The immediate goal of securing a bid to buy the property is at hand. A tight race with commercial competition for ownership of the property has been and continues to be a great incentive. Challenges facing the Squadron are many, but the incredible response from Trader's many friends throughout the world is a clear indication of the possibilities. Personal testimony of hundreds of contributors bears witness to their strong feelings about Trader Jon's as a touchstone of naval aviation and about Trader Jon the man. One benefactor in a letter representative of most wrote: "The incremental dismantling of our military traditions and culture must be stopped. Trader Jon's is a good place to start."

Commander Stumpf , a naval aviator, led the Blue Angels while on active duty.



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