A couple and a restaurant with a similar sounding but unrelated names were honored separately Tuesday, Jan. 16, for their individual contributions to Cambria and the North Coast.
Sue and Roger Robinson were anointed as the 2017 Cambria Chamber of Commerce Citizens of the Year.
Robin’s Restaurant was declared to be the first recipient of the chamber’s Business of the Year award.
The award-winners got standing ovations and loud applause from the large audience at the Cambria Pines Lodge Peacock Room. The honorees received official awards from the chamber, plus recognition certificates from Supervisor Bruce Gibson and some state officials.
The dinner meeting also included the installation of new chamber director Oz Barron of Ball & Skein & More, and swearing in of re-elected members Steve Kniffen, Mel McColloch and Miguel Sandoval. Returning directors are Fidel Figueroa, Gayle Jenkins, George Marschall, Sue Robinson and Marcela Ponce.
The Robinsons have worked tirelessly together and individually, in the public eye and behind the scenes on a variety of causes and for a wide range of nonprofits since they moved to Cambria from Burbank in 2002.
“Life was very good to us, and we wanted to give back,” Roger Robinson said at the dinner.
Friend and fellow volunteer Taylor Hilden, the 2013 honoree who introduced them, described them as “consummate Cambria volunteers.”
Even before the Robinsons moved to Cambria, they recognized the need to restore the Guthrie-Bianchini house, a dilapidated house on the corner of Burton Drive and Center Street. The couple joined the Cambria Historical Society (CHS) and helped to create the Cambria Historical Museum.
Roger, repeatedly acclaimed during the ceremony as a master woodworker, worked his reconstruction magic at the house, recreating the historic window frames and other elements of the structure.
He served on the society’s board of directors from 2005 to 2013, with three of those years as construction coordinator. Roger also was CHS membership chairman and treasurer for a time, and created some displays and the Honor Wall plaques dedicated to museum supporters.
During Sue’s tenure with the society (2002-2012), she assisted with fundraisers such as Heritage Days, Art and Wine in the Garden, Jail & Bail, Beer & Brats and the Harvest Festival, chairing some of them. She also managed the museum gift shop, organized and trained volunteers, published a quarterly newsletter, created some displays and organized programs.
The Robinsons also were involved separately in other nonprofits and groups.
Sue volunteered for years at the Homeless Animal Rescue Team, is co-chair of the Cambria Scarecrow Festival, helps promote Cambria online and through e-blasts, volunteers for the Tip-a-Cop dinner that raises money for Special Olympics and belongs to Rotary.
She’s vice president of the chamber board, and participates in many of the organization’s events. And Sue often arm-twists her husband into being a more-than-willing volunteer at various events.
Starting in 2008, Roger worked with the Historical Society board to approve putting on the museum grounds a “town clock” to be funded by Rotary Club of Cambria. He provided historical documentation showing there had been a previous town clock, proof that factored into the county’s ultimate approval for creating the new clock, which was dedicated in April 2009.
He became a Rotary member in 2010, and is the recipient of Rotary’s Paul Harris Service Fellow Award. He’s served five years on the Rotary Club Foundation board and is the club’s president-elect for 2017-18.
Hilden had asked friends to help define the Robinsons. Answers describing Roger included “Energizer Bunny”, “every organization’s dream workhorse” and “avid genealogist.” Friends defined Sue as “first one to volunteer and first one to clean up,” “Cambria’s cheerleader” and “tenacity.”
The couple was described as “friendship, love and family,” especially for grandson Tommy.
This is the first time the chamber has awarded Business of the Year honors, something that’s apt to happen annually now.
Simply stated, restaurant owner Shanny Covey is Robin’s restaurant.
According to Mary Ann Carson, the chamber’s executive director, Robin’s was being honored for traits epitomized by its owner … “integrity, consistency and commitment to excellence in business practices, which benefit the entire community.”
For instance, for chamber events, Carson said, “Shanny’s always the first one donating and she gets it to you. If she says she’ll do it, she does it, with consistency of service and great food.”
Nearly four decades ago, Shanny and Robin Covey (he’s now her ex-husband and current business partner) began what has become a major culinary-industry force in San Luis Obispo County. Sons Jai and Roberto work for their parents. There are five grandchildren.
The restaurant’s beginnings in 1979 were humble, in a small Main Street building which had been the Honeysuckle health-food store (where Indigo Moon is now). The Coveys renamed it Robin’s Nest.
Customers loved the Coveys’ sandwiches and other locally sourced, internationally based fare, once-a-month community dinners and homey atmosphere (very young son Jai used to take shampoo bottles off the shelves and line them up for his “choo choo train”).
The enterprise rapidly outgrew the setting. In 1985, the couple moved their enterprise to the historic Thorndyke House on Bridge Street.
In 1990, they moved Robin’s to its current Burton Drive location in the historic Souza house, which had been remodeled 16 years earlier into the Grey Fox restaurant.
Since then, the Coveys have expanded into the San Luis Obispo culinary scene. Shanny owns Robin’s, Robin owns Novo (opened in 2003) and, they jointly own Luna Red restaurant (2010) and Mint + Craft Café and Mercantile (2017).
They also owned and ran the French Corner Bakery for a couple of years starting in 2001 before selling it to the current owners.
Shanny’s dedication to the community is well known. She regularly donates food and services to a variety of causes, and is co-chair of the Historical Society’s Heritage Days pie-baking contest, which began in Robin’s lovely garden.
Robin’s also regularly hosts travel writers and other media folks to help introduce them to Cambria and the North Coast.
Carson said that, through the years, Shanny also has probably bought enough Christmas trees at the chamber’s annual fundraiser tree auction to start her own holiday shop. The chamber leader noted that, last December, Shanny “couldn’t attend the auction, because of business commitments that same evening. However, at one point in the dinner event, Shanny dashed in, bid on and won two trees.”