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Trader Vic's is a restaurant chain headquartered in Emeryville, California. Victor Jules Bergeron, Jr. (December 10, 1902, San Francisco, California – October 11, 1984, Hillsborough, California) founded a chain of Polynesian-themed restaurants that bore his nickname, "Trader Vic". He was one of two people who claimed to have invented the Mai Tai. The other was his amicable competitor for many years, Don the Beachcomber.
Bergeron attended Heald College in San Francisco, California. On November 17, 1934, using $500 in borrowed money, Bergeron opened a small bar/restaurant across from his parent's grocery store at San Pablo Avenue and 65th Street in the Golden Gate District of Oakland, California. He named it Hinky Dink's. As its popularity spread, the menu and decor developed an increasingly tropical flair, and Hinky Dink's soon became Trader Vic's. In 1940 the first franchised Trader Vic's opened in Seattle, Washington. In 1950, Bergeron opened a Trader Vic's location in Hawaii and in 1951 at 20 Cosmo Place in San Francisco. The chain of restaurants grew and is credited as one of the first successful themed chains, a marketing model that many other restaurants followed. In 1972 the original location in Oakland was closed and replaced by a bayfront restaurant in nearby Emeryville, California, now considered the chain's flagship restaurant.
During the Tiki culture fad of the 1950s and 1960s, as many as 25 Trader Vic's restaurants were in operation worldwide. They all featured the popular mix of Polynesian artifacts, unique cocktails, and exotic cuisine. In the 1980s and 1990s, the chain began to shrink as a new generation of people had little or no connection to the chain's tiki theme. Poor locations or less trendy addresses took a toll on the chain's popularity. While many of the original locations have closed, Trader Vic's once again has grown to 19 locations around the globe. As of 2012 there are four Trader Vic's restaurants in the United States, three in Europe, eight in the Middle East, and three in East Asia. The Trader Vic's Corporation also franchises restaurants and bars under the names the Mai Tai Lounge, Trader Vic's Island Bar & Grill, and Señor Pico, which take the total restaurant count up to 27.
Trader Vic's referenced in Warren Zevon's classic song "Werewolf of London".