Trader Jon, maybe you know the name, maybe you don’t, but you should and I’m going to tell you why.
Martin “Trader Jon” Weissman was a trained paratrooper, an honorary Blue Angel flight leader, a souvenir collector and a bartender. That’s only skimming the top, but we’re just getting started.
To put it blatantly, he was one of a kind.
Beginning in the early 1950’s, Trader Jon’s was the local watering hole in downtown Pensacola. Weissman had a lifelong love of naval aviation which in turn seeped into the walls of his bar. Trader was known for never setting drink prices but instead would ask patrons “What did you bring me?” Soon the commonly known currency of “tradernomics” presented a space so well decorated that people were coming from near and far to see it.
Perhaps some of his most frequent visitors were the U.S. Navy Blue Angels. The squadron first met Trader when they stopped by just shortly after the bar was opened. Trader became close friends with Butch Voris, one of the original pilots, and is said to have met every pilot since 1953. The establishment wasn’t just home to our Blue Angels but served as a tradition for graduating Aviation Officer Candidates to celebrate their commission. Over the years, thousands of drinks were had and hundreds of friends made.
In return for his friendship and hospitality over the years, Trader was named an honorary Blue Angels Flight leader and the Navy named a runway after him: TRADR-ONE. Additionally, Trader received six VIP rides in the Blue Angels jet, said to be a civilian record.
In 1995, Trader bought the building next door and transformed it into a Blue Angels museum. His hope was to open his museum up to the public, especially to schools, to entice kids to love flying like he did as a kid. He finished it just in time for the squadron’s 50th anniversary season in 1996. Decorated from floor to ceiling with flight suits, photos and posters, the museum was used to host special events, including the Blue Angels’ after-airshow party in November.
Shortly after, Trader suffered a stroke leaving him physically unable to continue operating the bar. The doors closed in 1998.
To date, you can see remnants of his legacy encapsulated in the T.T. Wentworth, Jr. Museum. Retro black and white floor tiles are forever married to rusty street signs, a saddle donated by John Wayne himself, flight suits and a tailhook rhinoceros. These are just to name a few of the 10,000 items that were collected from the walls of his bar. If you’re looking to relive the glory days where flight students, astronauts, and celebrities once rubbed shoulders with locals and visitors, skip on over to the museum or just watch An Officer and a Gentlemen, TJ’s was in fact modeled after our very own Trader Jon’s.
Have a Trader Jon story? Tell us in the comments.