A west Santa Rosa neighborhood's transformation from what was the seedy Lower Fourth to a bustling Railroad Square is often credited to a spunky entrepreneur, Nan Taylor Mishkin.
With no experience owning and running a restaurant, or any business for that matter, Mishkin opened the Omelette Express in 1977.
The breakfast joint was a quick success, allowing Mishkin to expand what she'd imagined as a take out place into a full restaurant, said her son, Don Taylor, who with his wife Laura took over running the business in 1987.
"What I'm proud of is that she went into it fairly blind and decided that if she worked hard, she'd have a chance," Taylor said. "It turns out that in 1977 there just weren't enough places to have breakfast."
Mishkin was traveling with a son, Jeff Taylor, when she died Dec. 4 in Mumbai, India from pulmonary fibrosis. She was 72.
She was born Oct. 15, 1938 in Stevens, Va. She grew up on her family's apple orchard and shortly after high school married an Air Force pilot, Don Taylor, who grew up in the same Virginia town.
Mishkin moved from her husband's Georgia military base to the Bay Area after Taylor was deployed to Vietnam. The couple, who later divorced, had three sons.
With stints in Virginia, Georgia, Hawaii, the Bay Area and other places, Mishkin and her family landed in Tiburon after she married Don Burke, who had been a 49ers linebacker in the 1950s, Taylor said.
Mishkin's brother bought her share of the family's Virginia property in the 1970s, giving her a small inheritance that was just enough to start a business.
She took a gamble when she bought Evans Market on Fourth Street, a small bodega where the neighborhood drunks could buy "crackers, cheese spread, Ripple and Alka Seltzer," according to a 1999 article by Press Democrat Columnist Gaye LeBaron .