Alumni restauranteurs in Redlands

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Bulldogs are the proprietors of two popular restaurants, Caprice Café and Citrone, in downtown Redlands

FROM FILMMAKER TO RESTAURANTEUR

When he graduated from U of R’s Johnston Center in 2000, Chris Pepino had a degree in film, music composition, and creative writing and embarked on a career making award-winning documentaries. He produced, directed, and edited the films himself and toured the country screening his work at film festivals.

“The whole time, I was supporting my film career by working at the restaurant,” says Pepino of Caprice Café in downtown Redlands. “I spent over 10 years managing the restaurant, and everyone who worked here kind of became my family.”

In 2013, he seized the opportunity to buy Caprice and launched a new career. “Yes, life changes,” he says, but the skills he learned as a documentarian serve him well as a restauranteur. “An independent filmmaker … bears all of the responsibilities to make a film. It made me self-sufficient, and a lot of that is the same at the restaurant.”

While Caprice has been a Redlands favorite for nearly three decades, Pepino made many changes in the last four years in both décor and cuisine. The restaurant has won several awards for its array of wines, and Pepino has invested more than $100,000 in a refresh of the restaurant’s furnishings.

“I approach things creatively at the restaurant, in the aesthetics, and in the flavors for the different dishes,” he says. “Hopefully, people see that, and it keeps them coming back.”

FRATERNITY BROTHERS MIX BUSINESS AND FRIENDSHIP

In January 2017, three U of R Kappa Sigma Sigma fraternity brothers—Aaron Fletcher ’98, ’01, Dan Isham ’97, and Brandon Pearce ’95—came together in a new Redlands adventure as owners of Citrone Restaurant & Bar, a perennial neighborhood institution on Orange Street in the city’s historic downtown.

“The previous owner was moving out of town, and it was not an option for me that Citrone could change or even close,” says Pearce, who is director of operations for L.A. tech company Reboot Networks and whose family has lived in Redlands for four generations, celebrating anniversaries, birthdays, and Christmas Eve at the restaurant. “This is a place dear to our hearts, and, when the opportunity arose to purchase, it was an easy decision. What made it even better was being able to do so with my closest friends.”

Isham, who currently owns San Diego mortgage company Atlas Crown Financial Inc., recalls: “The previous owners, Mike and Susan Phillips, treated me like family when I worked for them [as a U of R student]and have been there to support me throughout my life. The lessons and values I learned from working at the restaurant helped me have success in my career.”

Embarking on this journey together makes the demanding work of running a restaurant worth it, says Fletcher, a rescue-boat operator for the Long Beach Lifeguards who also worked at Citrone as a student.

“The generosity of the people in Redlands who come into the restaurant is amazing,” Fletcher notes. “It really is special to be part of this kind of place. Dan and Brandon also embody this spirit of generosity. I’m pretty lucky.”

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