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Marine Corps veteran Kevin Shin owns several Oceanside businesses, including The Switchboard, which earned the 76th Assembly District’s 2022 California Small Business of the Year award. Courtesy photo
Marine Corps veteran Kevin Shin owns several Oceanside businesses, including The Switchboard, which earned the 76th Assembly District’s 2022 California Small Business of the Year award. Courtesy photo
Cities Food & Wine Oceanside Oceanside Featured

Local veteran flourishes as restaurateur, firefighter, community leader

OCEANSIDE — Marine Corps veteran Kevin Shin has struck a harmonious balance between his duties as a father, husband, first responder, small business owner and board member of several local organizations.

Shin travels from his Carlsbad home for work as a fire captain in Culver City in Los Angeles County. Back in San Diego, he navigates ownership duties between his popular and exciting Oceanside eateries and cafes — The Switchboard Restaurant, art-inspired KNVS Bar and North County Roastery.

And if that isn’t enough, Shin also finds time to serve on the boards of the Oceanside Museum of Art, Chamber of Commerce and KOCT Station.

Shin, a Los Angeles native, first arrived in North San Diego County as a young Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton. Despite later being stationed elsewhere during his military career, Shin always knew he would return to the area to settle down and raise a family.

Now, the veteran lives in Carlsbad with his wife, Christine, and their two young daughters, Kalea and Leilani.

Shin’s first restaurant, The Switchboard, opened in 2020 amid the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the challenging circumstances, Shin pulled through successfully, making a name for himself by working with community leaders and helping promote his fellow business owners.

“Every ounce of effort I gave to the community was reciprocated back to me,” Shin said.

The Switchboard, a Korean-Hawaiian fusion restaurant, serves the food and beverage for The Fin Hotel, which is located next door and shares the same historic building — a business partnership that helped the newly-refurbished hotel join Hilton’s “Tapestry Collection” of boutique lodgings.

The Switchboard pays homage to the building’s wartime history as a switchboard operating center during World War II and some of the “greatest generation of women that worked in this historic building.” The food is inspired by Shin’s family’s culture – Shin is Korean with familial ties to Hawaii.

“When you think of modern day Hawaiian food, you think of some of the first Asian fusion dishes from a lot of different Asian countries and Portugal,” Shin said.

Earlier this year, Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath awarded The Switchboard with the 76th Assembly District’s Small Business of the Year award.

“It just floored me to be honest,” Shin said about receiving the award. “I was deeply humbled and honored.”

Hints of the local art scene also pepper Shin’s businesses like the KNVS, pronounced “canvas,” a newer restaurant and bar that creates an immersive art gallery, pairing culinary dishes with rotating works of art.

KNVS just launched its latest exhibit, “The Astronomy,” highlighting astrophotography taken by members of the San Diego Astronomy Association.

Among Shin’s many passions is coffee roasting, which led to his opening of the North County Roastery in partnership with the Nowell Family Foundation, the family of Sublime lead singer Bradley Nowell. Proceeds from the roastery’s Bradley’s House Blend go to the foundation, which helps those in the music industry struggling with opioid addiction to access affordable treatment.

From his 13 years serving as a Marine to his daily life as a father, business owner and fire captain, Shin feels like everything has come full circle.

“As a young adult I was raised here by the Marine Corps in Oceanside, so to kind of come back and help revitalize this area feels like I’m completing something I didn’t think I was going to do here,” Shin said.

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