Santa Paula Times

Above left photo (left to right) are: David Lippert and Tracy Lippert (Rabalais’), Kat Merrick, and Chris Sayer (Past Chamber Chair). Rabalais’ Coffee, Bakery & Bistro owners Tracy and David transformed a neglected corner of the city into a showpiece that garnered the Beautification Project of the Year Award. (Right photo) Above (left to right) are: Judy Phelps (CP Aviation) Bruce Dickenson, Clay Phelps (CP Aviation) and Chris Sayer (Past Chamber Chair). CP Aviation celebrated its 25th anniversary just days before owners Judy and Clay Phelps received the 2011 Business of the Year honor from the Chamber of Commerce.

Chamber lauds CP Aviation as Business, Rabalais’ for Beautification

February 17, 2012
Santa Paula News

CP Aviation celebrated its 25th anniversary just days before owners Judy and Clay Phelps received the 2011 Business of the Year honor from the Chamber of Commerce, which also celebrated Rabalais’ with the Beautification Award. 

The honors were handed out February 7 at the Limoneira Visitors Center, where 160 business and community leaders gathered to celebrate achievement. Mike Mobley was honored as Citizen of the Year and Gene Marzec received the Dr. Sam Edwards Lifetime Achievement Award at the luncheon prepared by Hozy’s and served by Santa Paula FFA students. 

Chamber Board Director and aviator Bruce Dickenson said it had been “my honor to nominate CP Aviation,” a move that included a “some payback.” Long ago Clay Phelps had pulled a prank that resulted in Dickenson and his wife Janice arriving home to find the full moon casting a glow on his favorite easy chair and ottoman that had been carefully placed on the roof.

“Clay is the son of Bob and Sally Phelps,” late legendary Santa Paula Airport figures who Dickenson set such a good example that Clay was student body president at his college. It was natural for him to pursue aviation, and he has obtained numerous certificates and licenses. 

After Phelps’ family moved permanently to Santa Paula in 1981, he started his career working for Mike Dewey at Screaming Eagle and learned all phases of the business - from mechanics and sales to aviation provided for film. Phelps stayed with Dewey until 1987, when “He decided he wanted to go out on his own,” and started CP Aviation with six aircraft.

Dickenson said Judy Phelps moved with the Peppermill restaurant, where she worked when it relocated to the airport - renamed Logsdon’s for the family that owned it. Judy met Clay in 1992, and they married two years later.

Bob Phelps taught Judy how to fly, and she was designated a Master Instructor in 2006 and was honored in 2011 as the National Flight Instructor of the Year. “To date, Judy has about 5,500 hours” to her credit.

Dickenson said CP Aviation has thrived: “Today it has 19 plants, four mechanics, 12 instructors and officer personnel,” for a total of 24 employees. The company books about 6,000 hours a year in flight time and has annual revenue exceeding $1 million. “It’s been my privilege to know Clay for 30 years,” said Dickenson.

“Clay and I discussed it and we agreed I was going to talk,” said Judy, who admitted Clay’s chair and ottoman on the roof prank occurred before her time. With the company’s 25th anniversary, Judy said she has been posting photos “that make you think; none of this would be possible without our employees, two tables of family and friends,” including her daughter Beverly who also works at the business.

“We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without these people... two that are not here but are a big part of CP Aviation are Bob and Sally Phelps. I like to mention their name whenever I can; they really were a big part of CP Aviation,” and Judy said Sally was also very active with the Chamber.

“At the airport we have a community, but we’re also a part of the Santa Paula community,” including, said Judy, the Santa Paula Rotarians at the event, a club to which she and Citizen of the Year Mobley both belong.

Rabalais’ Coffee, Bakery & Bistro owners Tracy and David Lippert transformed a neglected corner of the city into a showpiece that garnered the Beautification Project of the Year Award. Those who attended the award luncheon enjoyed coffee and dessert prepared at Rabalais’, which specializes in savory Louisiana cuisine.

Kat Merrick, also a Chamber director, said the Lipperts took eight months “of hard work, determination and imagination” to transform the long vacant building into “one of the highlights of Santa Paula. They created a place of warmth” that has quickly gained fame as a place to eat and socialize. In addition, the couple gives back to the community in numerous ways.

“One of the reasons I’m so excited to present this award is because I was also raised in the South, born and raised in a family that loves to cook,” and Merrick said the Lipperts’ “Southern hospitality make everyone feel at home and comfortable” in the “wonderful setting....  By its authenticity you can tell it came from a lot of love,” and the corner building is now a showcase of both architecture and hospitality.

“I remember being here last year as a guest” of Clint Garman, said Tracy Lippert, when Garman’s Irish Pub - also a Lippert connection - was honored as Business of the Year. Tracy offered “gratitude to the city for being so completely welcoming to Rabalais’, helping to usher us through things” that were challenging. Tracy added that all involved in the project, including the construction crews, deserve kudos, and noted, “We’re so grateful to be here and we thank you so much.”

Rabalais was his wife’s “long time dream,” and David Lippert said he is grateful he was able to support her in attaining it. “It’s neat for the Chamber and people to recognize a little bit what we’ve been able to do,” but David noted accomplishments such as Marzec’s leading to his Lifetime Achievement Award are ones that are celebrated generation after generation.  

Chris Sayer, the former Chamber president, had welcomed the crowd to the awards luncheon, noting that new businesses are discovering the opportunity Santa Paula offers including the draw of the new recreational/bike trail, the murals and numerous museums. “This, by any measure,” he said, “has been a tremendous year,” with the creation of new enterprises as well as the expansion of existing businesses. There’s also Singular Santa Paula, a “tremendous new video program” that Sayer said that would highlight what makes the city notable for being one of a kind.

The Chamber itself has seen a rising membership, expanded programs and new equipment that will enhance the variety of business training offered to help ensure success. In addition, the city’s retail sales tax revenue increased by more than 17 percent, and it ranked first among county cities for the second quarter in a row.

“I’m just the messenger, I didn’t make this happen,” and Sayer asked that the crowd “applaud the business owners and entrepreneurs that do make this happen,” including CP Aviation and Rabalais’.