In the shadowy, byzantine world of Traders, Beachcombers, Castaways and Wayfarers, authenticity is normally an afterthought. Rum, revelry and boisterous storytelling rule. Only a few iconic establishments from the mid-century tiki heyday have survived. On that exceptionally short list sits “Point Loma’s Most Unique Hooch Hut” : TRADER MORT'S.
Opened in 1964 by Lance Morton (“Mort”) and family, TRADER MORT'S supplemented the prevailing ambiance of Shelter Island’s Bali Hai Restaurant (originally “Christian’s Hut”) and (Humphrey’s) Half Moon Inn - maintaining a sentinel post to that atomic-age San Diego resort district. Built and maintained as a liquor store from the very beginning, embossed with lava rock, torches and a “mort-ifying” 10 foot tall carved icon (“Mr. Tiki” - carved by famed artist/ sculptor/ bon vivant Eli Hedley ), TRADER MORT'S has remained an archaeological find for the tiki purist for over 50 years.
Purchased by Walter Stutz in 1975, and currently owned and operated by Walter’s son Mike Stutz, TRADER MORT'S has settled nicely into the Point Loma landscape as an all-purpose neighborhood market and beverage depot, maintaining a broad selection of spirits, wine and craft beer. But the “Polynesian Pop Mana” cannot be ignored. Perhaps the manic gaze of “Mr. Tiki”- mysteriously absconded for a week in late 2001 - has transfixed you at some point. The siren call: Rum, revelry and a delightful tiki mug awaits.
TRADER MORT'S - still a modernist outpost on an exotic distant isle, and the starting point for your next urban tropical adventure.
Mr. Tiki’s Big Adventure
Sometime on the night of November 12th, 2001, “Mr. Tiki” vanished. The one-ton 10 foot tall iconic word-carved idol had stood steadfastly at the perimeter of TRADER MORT'S LIQUOR since 1966. Suddenly, it was gone, as if sucked into a visiting spacecraft.
This was no ordinary carving. Eli Hedley had completed the work several years before the opening of TRADER MORT'S, as part of his Disneyland creations (Most of the tikis were sent to Adventureland). It had been purchased from the famous Island Trader Stores and soon became one of Hedley’s better known pieces.
But it vanished - and the hope of a return appeared slim when ten days passed without so much as a cryptic clue or ransom note. But on November 24, 2001, “Mr. Tiki” returned to TRADER MORT'S. Lying unharmed in the parking lot when Mike Stutz showed up for work that morning, the massive wooden idol maintained the familiar stunned visage, but spilled no secrets as to his unexpected disappearance.
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