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The Gavin family’s roots run deep

February 13, 2017
By ASHLEY GOODMAN ( , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

Irving Gavin's family has quite a rich history on Sanibel. His father, Eugene Gavin, is the grandson of Isiah and Hannah Gavin, who came to the island from Tallahassee in 1917, making them the first African-American family to settle on Sanibel. The Gavin's initially made the trek to the island for farming.

Irving was born in Germany, grew up in Colorado but returned to the island in 1996. He spent many summers with his grandparents on Sanibel.

"At that time, there were only four homes on Rabbit Road, so back then, we did a lot of exploring. My uncle, who's a year older than me, we'd go into our grandfather's shed when he was at work and grab his machete and pellet gun and just go hacking through the woods, or go in his boat. We did a lot of fishing," Gavin said.

After he returned to Florida, Gavin started his own landscaping company on Sanibel then five years ago, he bought Rosie's Cafe & Grill with his partner.

"I remember when I lived in Denver, which was all the way back in high school, I told my friends that I was going to retire and move down to Florida and open up a sports bar. I didn't know that I was predicting my future," Gavin said.

Gavin has worked in the restaurant business all through out his life. His first job was at Dunkin's Restaurant which is now The Blue Giraffe.

"I was 12 years old. That was my first dishwasher job," he said. "I started in the restaurant business from there. I never really left it."

The first meal he ever made for his family was chicken parmesan, which he learned to make at Dunkin's.

Gavin said that Rosie's menu is an eclectic mix of different restaurants that he's worked at over the years, while some of the items are just things he's liked at other restaurants. For example, his popular black bean veggie wrap recipe was borrowed from a friend's coffee shop in Pennsylvania.

One of the attractions that Rosie's is well known for is their daily Sanibel Think Tank meetings. Gavin said it originally started in 1983 at the old Rosie's down on the east end of the island. The think tank meetings are generally current events and political talk.

"They come everyday, they keep me in check because they're here at 7 a.m. so that means I have to be here at 7 a.m.," Gavin said. "They're funny, they always have good jokes."

Gavin said that during peak season, the meeting attracts as many as 30 people. But, one of the most unique aspects of Gavin's restaurant is that he employs a melting pot of all different kinds of people - which he says he will always continue to do.

"There was a time when my dad was younger and he wasn't able to go sit down in a restaurant, he had to go to the back door and be served on Sanibel and now today, his son owns a restaurant and he can come in here and sit wherever he wants, at any time he wants and get anything he wants, and that's the progression I like about this country and I hope we don't ever go back to where it was. I like the fact that we can all get along. I have all different cultures of people that work here who all respect each other and have mutual respect for each other's cultures, and together, we're able to create something nice for everyone to enjoy and that's the thing I like - we all get along even although we're different. That's what the country should be about it, we should all work together for one common goal," Gavin said.



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