“Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens opened in 1947, the same year I was born,” Bob Lovejoy tells me, clearly savoring that serendipitous fact as we sit by the bright red bar inside that hallowed drinking establishment. I’m talking to this genial gent with dry martini on hand and Frank Sinatra in the background, and close by is legendary Santa Barbara bartender Willy Gilbert. It’s definitely a Mad Men moment.
In 2013, Lovejoy lovingly restored this lounge, which closed in 2006, to its former glory by following its original plans. The main change was the name: it’s now called The Pickle Room, which is a nod to the Three Pickles deli next door, which Lovejoy also owns and runs with his son Clayton. “I’ve always enjoyed “50’s style food” explains Bob, “and it’s our interpretation of the East coast deli culture.”
He’s been a fan of this Presidio neighborhood since he came to town in 1976. Bob once mopped the floors at Playa Azul, where his wife was the first waitress. Two years later, he opened Lovejoy Design, and for the past 37 years, Bob has presided over a very successful marble, tile, and glass brick installation and contracting business. But he always knew he didn’t want to do that for the rest of his life.
So he’s found “true love” being a proprietor of the bar and deli, which also includes a location in Goleta. “If you make it here,” said Bob of the fight to survive in Santa Barbara, “everything’s justified.”
He puts down his drink to answer the Proust Questionnaire.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
What do you like most about your job?
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
What is your most marked characteristic?
My sense of humor.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
“So there I was…”
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Peace on earth.
What is your greatest fear?
Waking up from my dreams.
Who do you most admire?
My uncles. Honest.
What is your greatest extravagance?
My beach house in the Sea of Cortez.
What is your current state of mind?
Dealing with grief.
What is the quality you most like in people?
What is the quality you most dislike in people?
What do you most value in friends?
Which talent would you most like to have?
The musical gift.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Where would you most like to live?
What is your most treasured possession?
Who makes you laugh the most?
What is your motto?
Self-discipline is the key to life.
On what occasion do you lie?
Only when necessary.