Surf Beat: May 16th, 2017

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May 16th, 2017 




Welcome: President Ken welcomed us with a strong baseball theme. He is a sponsor, through San Diego Pools, of a Little League team in the La Jolla Baseball League.

Pledge: Major Randy Mulch

Invocation: Bill Boehm

Song: “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” – led by President Ken

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Rotary Welcomed

  • Rotarians Femie Cupit from the San Diego Paradise Valley Club and Aaron Hoffman from the East Lansing, Michigan Club. Both back for a fourth visit.
  • Troy Lattimer, guest of John Hoss
  • Rebecca and John Hartford, wife and son of Charles Hartford, who was himself unable to attend the meeting.


Club/Committee/Event Announcements:

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Many baseball stories.  John Hartford shared a bat that had been given to him by a San Diego Padre.  Betty Dow spoke of getting to meet the great Ty Cobb!  President Ken told the story of himself as a schoolboy who was  having an unsuccessful pitching outing and was pulled from the mound, only to go up to bat in the bottom of the last inning with two men on base and trailing by two runs, and hitting a ball that literally stopped everyone in their path as they watched it sail over an adjacent building and “out of the park”, winning the game for his team! David Shaw shared an autographed baseball from the National League Champion 1984 San Diego Padres (the only Padres team to ever go to the World Series – only to be beaten by the Detroit Tigers in five games). The ball is signed by Steve Garvey and Goose Gossage among others from that celebrated team.

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Leanne MacDougall was honored on her birthday with a (mostly) on-tune rendition of “Happy Birthday.”


Board of Directors committed to $2,000 for tree planting at the YMCA.  The board approved Judy Nelson as the new Club Service Committee Chair, replacing Corrine Fleming, who has moved north. The Board also approved four new members, to be inducted on May 23 .  May 30 the Rotary and Riford Scholarship winners will be at the meeting.  Cocktails with Ken with be at the end of May at the Pantai Inn.  The next fireside chat will be at the home of Chuck and Ann Dick on May 30 at 7:00 p.m. at 9629 Claiborne Square, La Jolla. New members who are attending should contact President Ken for the gate code.


John Trifiletti introduced Ralph Rubio, founder of Rubio’s Restaurants, and used an interview format him to tell his story.


Ralph began by announcing that the manager of the  Rubio’s in Solana Beach,  who was stabbed three times by an attacker, the previous evening, was doing well in the hospital and expected to make a full recovery.   Sheriff’s Deputies shot and killed the attacker.  Ralph and his wife had spent time with the manager, Robin, and his wife and he said after our Rotary meeting he would be heading back to the hospital.

Ralph’s parents were born in Mexico, but Ralph and his sister were born in New Jersey and raised in South LA County. He is the eldest of five siblings.  Ralph went to San Diego State University and took to heart the advice of his father, who he described as a serial entrepreneur: ‘If you ever have a chance, own your own business”.

Ralph’s roommate started as a bus boy at the Olde Spaghetti Factory, and got Ralph to sign on there as well.  As a surfer, Ralph spent a lot of time Baja where he had his first fish tacos.  An idea took hold, and in 1982 he decided to open his first restaurant.  The site was Mission Bay, in a former Orange Julius, and the first of more than 200 Rubio’s was born. The restaurant started as fish taco stand, and at first was a very slow go.  It took two years to build the business.

How did Ralph measure success? The business is money-making endeavor, but he considers success the 4500 team members working in six states, many of whom have been at Rubio’s for more than 20 years. There is a culture of family there. Ralph wanted to offer authentic Mexican food, and Rubio’s was one of the first to use cilantro in cooking.  Rubio’s cooks everything fresh each day, including their salsa and guacamole. The company owns almost all of the restaurants, except for about five in Las Vegas. Several years ago it went public and grew to 203 restaurants.  However, it went private three years ago with a venture partner.

Ralph said his goal was consistency and high quality, and said part of the restaurant’s success was developing an operations manual.  He learned front-of-house skills at the Olde Spaghetti Factory, and restaurant management at Harbor House in Seaport Village.  Today Rubio’s has a culinary team of five which works on developing new dishes. They do concept research and consumer feedback via market tests.

Succession planning: There will be intermediate leadership until his son –- who just received an MBA  from USC and is pursuing hospitality — is ready to take over the business .  Maybe he will eventually go onto Rubio’s, maybe not.

Although longtime company mascot Pesky Pescado has been retired, Rubio’s best-selling menu item today is still the fish taco!


President Ken closed the meeting by once more invoking the spirit of his grandfather who noted:

“It takes each of us to make a difference for all of us”

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  Photos by David Shaw and Deb Plotkin  Reported by David Shaw Edited by Susan Farrell. 

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Club Meetings Unless otherwise noted, all club meetings are Tuesday, 12:00 noon – 1:30 p.m. at La Valencia Hotel, 1132 Prospect St., La Jolla (Map)  Check out the Upcoming Guest Speakers on the Club Calendar


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