A Tribute to Pannikin

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Sarah Kaplan

At 7467 Girard Ave, Pannikin had a blooming, colorful atmosphere where anyone could feel welcomed.

Isadora Blatt, Staff Writer

On March 15, Pannikin La Jolla made the official announcement that they were being forced to vacate the property within the next month. Pannikin’s last day at this location, 7467 Girard Ave, was April 9. “In December, we started having conversations about a lease that was essentially unsignable,” explained Gloria Serna. She and her wife, Amanda Morrow, have been the co-owners and operational managers of Pannikin for 17 years. When they couldn’t agree on terms with the landlord, they were given 30 days before closing.

For me, Pannikin represents the safety of childhood. It is located right next to La Jolla Elementary School, and every time I went back to visit, memories of after-school snack trips flooded to the surface. There was always the question of whether or not my brother and I would be allowed to split a big red velvet cupcake, and who would get to keep the glass Orangina bottle. While my mom waited for her coffee, we played chess on the big wooden table in the back, dusty sunlight streaming through the window behind us.

      Reflecting on the countless hours I spent in this café, I now realize that Pannikin was a sort of safe haven. It was like an extension of my elementary school, and it was a permanent corner of the town I call home. Even after graduating from elementary school, I could find comfort in the fact that Pannikin would always be there when I found the time to come back. It’s the place you looked forward to seeing on your return from a long vacation; an indicator that you’ve made it home.

Sarah Kaplan (‘22) was devastated at the news. “Their location was really special to me, because I’ve been going there since I went to La Jolla Elementary,” she corroborated. “Pannikin was my workspace. I had this one spot that I always had to get, and I would sit there for hours.”

“I think this is more of a home than our actual home is,” said Serna in the shade of a coffee table on a bustling, sunny day a couple weeks before closing. “We call this the Pannikin family. Everybody in there, we’re all very close knit.”

When Pannikin posted the announcement on Instagram, there was an outpouring of support. In the comments, many users shared personal anecdotes about their heartfelt attachment they felt with the cafe. “Businesses like yours do so much more than just make a profit. They are part of the community,” commented @samshapirome. “Your business means something to a lot of people. [It’s] not just a coffee shop.”

As of right now, the Pannikin team has relocated to a pop-up at 7611 Fay Ave. with the name Flower Pot Cafe and Bakery. While the larger future of this institution is uncertain, now is a better time than ever to reflect on its rich history over the many years past. 

In conversations about the history of Pannikin, the name Bob Sinclair comes up frequently. It is a name spoken with the utmost respect and gratefulness, as he was the man who started it all. As the story goes, Sinclair had just gotten out of the navy in 1968 and was in La Jolla when his car broke down. He ended up staying, and he opened up a store on Prospect that mainly sold cookware. Later, he began experimenting with roasting coffee, and developed an interest in renovating historic buildings. Eventually, he would open up Pannikin at its iconic location. 

Simultaneously, he persuaded ​​Dennis Wills to move into town as well, who opened D.G. Wills Books next door. Over the years, the two businesses side by side would become some of the most cherished businesses in La Jolla. “Pannikin and D.G. Wills are just two of the remaining things that remind me of the more artistic and bohemian flair that La Jolla used to be,” commented Instagram user @swedejess.

Most importantly, Bob Sinclair established the welcoming, accepting environment that Pannikin embodies. “I don’t think Bob ever forgot a name,” Sinclair’s coworker and longtime friend Steve Slaughter told the San Diego Union Tribune shortly after he passed away after a motorcycle accident in 2011. Sinclair was known to establish friendships with all of those he encountered, and over the years Pannikin has carried this value on. “That’s why our community has always kept showing up,” Serna said, “because we want to know. We want to know why you’re sad today, or why you’re so excited. The connections that I’ve made because of these conversations are priceless to me.”

Reflecting on the future of the lot at 7467 Girard Ave, Serna said, “If you understand the vein of anything, you understand that it needs a heartbeat. This is a vein, but without us, without my wife and I and our staff that do everything to create this positive energy and this bubble that everybody wants to be a part of, without that this is just a vein, it’s just a building in La Jolla owned by another rich person. Without a heartbeat it’s nothing. They can take a building, but they cannot take who we are as humans. Nobody can take who I am. Nobody can take who my wife is, or who my children are, or why my entire staff is, and nobody can replicate what we’ve done here.”