News Release

Orange County SBDC Client Winner of National Competition Sponsored by VISA


Santa Ana-Based Robbins Nest Wine Bar and Bistro Benefits from Free 

Business Consulting to Position Business for Success

(Santa Ana, CA)— Robbins Nest Wine Bar and Bistro, located in the heart of Santa Ana, was recently selected as the winner of a national competition sponsored by VISA. The contest was open to Small Business Development Center (SBDC) clients from 10 states. The wine bar’s success story was submitted for consideration by the Orange County/Inland Empire Regional SBDC Network. Robbins Nest Wine Bar and Bistro, the West Coast contest winner, was one of five honorees nationwide.

“We couldn’t be more proud of our clients and Robbins Nest’s founder Vincent Canino and general manager Lisa Robbins for their success in launching their business in downtown Santa Ana,” said Leila Mozaffari, director, Orange County SBDC. “We are doubly delighted that their vision and tenacity has won them the VISA competition and an opportunity for national recognition.”

VISA’s selection criteria were based on:

    • Being an SBDC client
    • Having a significant economic impact in their community
    • Having achieved significant success through the assistance of SBDC
    • Additional consideration was given to nominees who use electronic payments to build the business

As the West Coast contest winner, Canino and Robbins benefitted from gaining a professionally produced video about their business. The value of the video is estimated at $10,000.

In 2005, Canino had the idea to launch a restaurant when he purchased the rights to an English pub concept from a Canadian franchisor. He first connected with Orange County SBDC Business Consultant Linda Hoitt to develop a business plan and possible financing strategies, but the plans went on the shelf for a while.

At the time, Canino was working as an executive for Trane where he met and became friends with Jim Robbins. One evening, Robbins and his wife Lisa stopped to help Canino with a wine cellar he was building in his home. It was then that they decided that they would come together on some kind of a joint venture. However, those plans did not move forward as hoped although there were several attempts to find a location. Then in 2007, everything came to a halt when Jim was diagnosed with stage four cancer. Sixteen months later he died. Needless to say, Canino lost his passion and drive to move ahead with the project.

About a year after Robbins passed, Canino and Lisa Robbins got together to spread Jim’s ashes. On that day, Lisa said that if she ever started a business, she would call it the Robbins Nest in honor of Jim’s memory. It was right then that the idea of a wine bar and bistro spotlighting Jim’s passions – great wine and amazing food –was born. Lisa
remembers saying, “Let’s do it. Let’s do it anyway.”

Early on in the process, the business partners returned to Hoitt for additional business consulting services. The Orange County SBDC’s focus was helping the client prepare a solid business planned with projections.

“Their consulting services were extremely helpful,” said Canino. “Even if you are an experienced business leader, as I’ve been, the best action I ever took was reaching out to the SBDC. The experience and talent in this organization helped me uncover possible pitfalls throughout the entire process from building a business plan to securing capital to project execution.”

Canino said that it can be very tough to get funding to start a restaurant. Neither he nor Lisa had actually run a restaurant before; although Lisa had managed a wine bar in Oceanside. According to a study by Ohio State University on failed restaurants, 60% do not make it past the first year, and 80% fail in five years. There are many reasons for failure—inexperience, staffing and vendor issues, lack of business acumen, poor customer service, poor food quality, and most often insufficient funding. With the support of the Orange County SBDC, Canino and Robbins secured a 7(a) loan from JP Morgan Chase.

Hoitt also helped them gain clarity around the theme of the wine bar and bistro. Included in the 80-page business plan for the new wine bar and bistro is the pair’s vision. They wanted to develop an approachable wine bar. Both agree than many wine bars are pretentious and even intimidating to customers who may not be that knowledgeable about wine. They wanted their customers to feel comfortable and at home in their establishment.

Finding a location continued to be challenging until by chance Lisa discovered a 3,000-square-foot space that was available in the historic Southern Counties Gas Company building in downtown Santa Ana. The building, constructed in 1923, is a one-of-a-kind and according to Lisa a perfect fit for their unique take on a wine bar and bistro. She said, “Everything we serve is homemade and made with love by an amazing crew of talented people.”

Although the location at 207 West 2nd Street can be a little tricky to find at first, it is in the center of Santa Ana’s Artists Village.

Since opening in June 2014, Robbins Nest Wine Bar and Bistro has expanded its menu to include a wide range of starters including pastrami rolls with house smoked pastrami, smoked pork sliders, and other unique tapas. A variety of soup and salads are served including caprese stack and a spinach salad with bacon jam dressing. The menu also includes over fifteen sandwiches, flatbreads and handmade pizzas from a recipe Canino recreated from a New York pizzeria where he worked while in high school and college. In the evenings, Robbins Nest Wine Bar and Bistro also serves entrees ranging from chicken piccata to charbroiled skirt steak to shrimp arrabiata. All dishes are created on the theme of approachable, but distinct in their flavor profiles.

Besides contributing to the culinary options available in Santa Ana, Canino and Robbins are pleased to say that their new business has created 17 new jobs helping to boost the local economy. Both are proud to be part of the fabric of the Santa Ana business community. “To be part of a restaurant community in Santa Ana where we all help each other every day is just one more reason we are glad that we chose Santa Ana,” said Robbins.

“It is amazing to be here,” said Robbins. “I know that Jim would be proud of what we have accomplished.”

However each agree that they couldn’t have done it without the support of the Orange County SBDC, including help with the business plan, assistance in securing a business loan, support in development the business concept and marketing strategy based on the business location, as well as help in traversing city and agency licensing and permitting and lease negotiations.

“Never be too proud nor think you are too smart. SBDC will be your other set of eyes and ears that will increase your ability to be successful in your business venture,” said Canino.

For free business consulting assistance from the Orange County SBDC, visit or call (714) 564-5200.

About the Orange County SBDC
The Orange County Small Business Development Center (SBDC), an economic development program of Rancho Santiago Community College District, is partially supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), the California State University, Fullerton and the California Community College Chancellor’s Office. The Orange County SBDC is a one-stop source for business development, expansion strategies, international trade, contracting opportunities and access to capital.

About Rancho Santiago Community College District
Santa Ana College and Santiago Canyon College are public community colleges of the Rancho Santiago Community College District, which serves the residents of Anaheim Hills, Orange, Santa Ana, Villa Park, and portions of Anaheim, Costa Mesa, Irvine, Fountain Valley, Garden Grove, and Tustin. Both colleges provide education for academic transfer and careers, courses for personal and professional development, and customized training for business and industry.

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Contact: Judy Iannaccone

Phone: (714) 480-7503