The 2013 Hermosa Beach Chamber of Commerce Man and Woman of the year were announced on Monday, naming two local restaurant owners as the winners.
Ron Newman, the co-owner of Palmilla and Baja Sharkeez, a small chain of bars and restaurants, and Cantina Real owner Joline Blais will be honored next week with an awards ceremony that is open to the public.
Newman was instrumental in blocking the recent election initiative, Measure B, which would have curtailed downtown bar hours by one to two hours over a period of five years, by heading the “Committee to Protect Local Businesses” campaign. He has also been an active resident of Hermosa Beach for nearly 45 years, serving on behalf of a number of charities and business improvement committees. He has also served as a board member for the Hermosa Beach Chamber of Commerce for the past 14 years and his involvement with the bi-annual Fiesta Hermosa has helped raise tens of thousands of dollars for local charities.
“I think as far as I’m concerned it’s an honor that they’ve awarded me that position,” said Newman. “You know, it’s funny… a lot of things that I’ve done throughout the years to try to help businesses and work together with the neighbors and citizens, I do it because I want to do it.”
He’s also worked with Leadership Hermosa, Hermosa Beach Young Professionals and the Chamber’s Business Advocacy Committee. He’s supported the Beach City Toy Drive for over 10 years and is a member of the Board of Directors for the Hermosa Beach Art Walk and serves as an executive member of the Restaurant and Tavern Association. He was honored with the “Spirit of Chamber Award” last January.
“I think the biggest thing that I’ve done which is very different than when I was younger, is I’ve tried to look at things from both sides,” said Newman. “Not just the business side, but the neighbors’ side or citizens’ side or the politicians’ side. I try to look at what’s fair for all of us. I think that’s probably the biggest gift I’ve given to Hermosa and to myself. I’ve been through so much for so long that you end up with a certain amount of wisdom.”
Joline Blais, a Redondo Beach native, has been involved in the Hermosa Beach restaurant scene since 1972 when she worked at her family’s restaurant Pio’s on Pier Avenue, which eventually became Cantina Real. She began washing dishes and busing tables at 10.
“I was shocked when they called me,” Blais said. “I was so overwhelmed I started crying. These ladies that get Women of the Year, they do so much for the community… It’s because I love doing what I do, it doesn’t even seem like work because I’m having fun.”
She has been an active member of the Woman’s Club of Hermosa Beach for over 20 years and has co-chaired the club’s annual pancake breakfast. She also volunteers for the Kiwanis Club at their annual Christmas Tree Lot by donating her time as well as her tamales and margaritas from Cantina Real for the group’s “Taste of the Beach” fundraiser.
“It makes my heart sing when you know that you’re raising money for a good cause,” said Blais. “It’s just knowing that you’re doing something good, I love doing it.”
She has also visited Hermosa Beach’s sister city Loreto, Mexico and has hosted exchange students while they stay with local families.
In her free time, she has taken up flying R44 helicopters. But her biggest and most ongoing passion remains Hermosa Beach and the people who reside in the city.
Her brother recently opened a branch of Cantina Real in Manhattan Beach, but Blais said that she hopes to keep operating her Pier Avenue restaurant despite recently reported lease changes.
“We’re staying as long as we can,” said Blais. “I did not want to go to Manhattan Beach because my heart is in Hermosa. I’m not going anywhere.”
The Chamber of Commerce will honor these award winners as well as install newly elected Board of Directors Doug Howarth and Rick Hankus on January 8 at 5:30 p.m. at the Comedy and Magic Club. The event is open to the public. Tickets are $50. RSVP by calling 310-376-0951 or visiting www.HBChamber.net. ER
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