SD premier coffee man victim of injuries in motorcycle accident.
Bob Sinclair, founder of Pannikin Coffee & Tea and later of Cafe Moto, died on August 6 after sustaining injuries in a motorcycle crash in New Mexico on July 28.
The crash occurred around 4.30 p.m. as Sinclair travelled east on NM 502 and attempted a left turn onto County Road 101 East. For unknown reasons he lost control of his Ducati motorcycle and was thrown from the seat. Head injuries were extensive though he wore a helmet. Transferred to the ICU at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Santa Fe, he lingered in a coma until August 6.
Robert “Bob” Sinclair was born in Hollywood on November 1, 1942 and grew up on a farm in Antelope Valley. After four years in the navy, most of them in San Diego, he and his first wife opened a cookware store on La Jolla’s Prospect Street. An incidental product was whole bean coffee and an antique roaster set up in his home garage on Rosemont Street fed the appetites of a growing number of La Jollans. The shop soon sold more coffee than cookware and the Pannikin was born.
Eventually, Sinclair established several coffeehouses throughout the county and a second retail shop on Girard Street in La Jolla. A large roastery was sited at the corner of 13th and J Streets in what is now East Village. A flair for location was always evident and The Pannikin counted the former Santa Fe Railroad station in Leucadia as its most magnificent jewel. Another location sits across the street from La Jolla Cove and operates as a restaurant. Along the way, Sinclair supplied every one of the early coffeehouses in San Diego in the 80′s and quickly became respected as San Diego’s premier coffee roaster. Hundreds of restaurants, cafés and bars throughout the county and elsewhere became Sinclair’s clients and under the wholesale entity now known as Cafe Moto, the business continues to expand.
Bob Sinclair’s Pannikin set a style for coffeehouses in San Diego for layout, design and signature coffees that endures. He introduced whole bean specialty coffee to San Diego, revived coffee roasting singlehandedly here and was the first to create public awareness of coffees’ diversity. His business model and taste helped frame the style of many coffeehouses that elevated them from offbeat hangouts to the comfortably chic places they’ve become. There is perhaps no one individual with more significance to more aspects of San Diego’s coffee and allied trades than Bob Sinclair, dead at the age of 69.
Front page image by Nan Palmero, Flickr.com Creative Commons