(Kristi Maddocks, assistant manager at the La Jolla Pannikin at the time I held the same title in Encinitas, contributes her memories of the San Diego coffee chainâ€™s founder.)
It is with great sadness I say adieu to Pannikin co- founder Bob Sinclair, who was killed in a motorcycle accident last month. Bob died while riding his Moto Guzzi in the New Mexico desert.
Like many Pannikin employees, I started my stint there as a bright-eyed teenager, fueling up on coffee as I pored over notes with high-school study groups at the Del Mar and Encinitas Station cafÃ©s. Then, it graduated to hanging out at La Jolla cafÃ© on weekend mornings, after a later night of dancing or at the tail end of a very cold scooter ride up the beautiful Southern California coast. Nothing was cooler than congregating on the deck of La Jolla Pannikin in the warm sun with your friends, living off an almost endless cup of coffee and bags of day-old bagels & day-old pastries. (That is back when the first cup of coffee was 75 cents, refills were 25 cents each!)
To me, the Pannikin in La Jolla was the center of the universeâ€ for San Diego Bohemians in the 1980s â€”young and old alike. I knew of no other place like it in San Diego County (thank you, Bob and Gay!). Colorful characters of all types were drawn there for the great coffee, but lingered for the company and conversation. For many people, our time spent at the Pannikin was transformative and exciting. Together we forged many of our life-long friendships with each other and the surfers, foreigners, art-types and music lovers who would come in to enjoy a quality cup of Joe.
We also met many bright minds and established artists who patronized the Pannikin and lived in La Jolla. Colorful characters were drawn there, to lunch, chat, flirt or play a game of chess. There I met such eccentrics as the painter Walter Keane, a dancer from â€œThe Chorus Line,â€ a photographer from National Geographic, UCSD professors and many more stand-out human beings. Many of them are friends within our Che Underground ranks.
Yet, none of them were quite as cool as Bob Sinclair, who would pull up to the cafÃ© once or twice a week in his worn Leviâ€™s, cowboy boots & Indian vest, his salt-and-pepper motorcycle moustache whisked by the wind, and a twinkle in his eye. Just by the way he strutted about the place, doing his work, you could tell Bob was a cool dude. I was deep into the 1960s mod-garage scene at the time I began working for him in â€˜84. Bob and I got to chatting about my style and music one day, and he told me that had been inspired to get into the coffee business while hanging out in North Beach cafÃ©s of San Francisco. He went on to relate that he had been in San Francisco during part of the psychedelic & rock movement of the late 1960s and early â€˜70s. From that point forward, I knew Bob and I shared a love of the music & art of that era. That was a special connection we shared, and it made me want to be an even more devoted employee.
Bob Sinclair and his wife and business partner Gay had a profound impact on many of us while we were under their employ at The Pannikin. Although they were creative and â€œfree-thinkingâ€ individuals, they were also very successful business people. As employers, they were teachers and mentors â€¦ instilling in each of us a valuable skill set, knowledge, a strong work ethic, a connection to our community at large, and a love of art and other cultures.
Two or three generations of young adults were blessed to experience the Pannikin experience and the Sinclairs. As I look back on my Pannikin days now, I see how they had faith in and stood by me and my co-workers during some pretty tough times. In a way, Pannikin was the second home and second family to so very many of us. God Bless you, Bob! Much love to Gay Sinclair and the Lee family. All my love is with you at this difficult time. I heart you mucho!
â€” Kristi Maddocks