Hank Robinson, who co-founded Denver’s Argonaut Wine & Liquor with his father more than half a century ago, has passed away at the age of 96 following an extended illness.
Robinson, along with his brother Jack, built Argonaut Wine & Liquor from a corner liquor store on East Colfax Avenue into a major enterprise that also sells wine, beer and spirits online.
Robinson’s friends and family described him as a creative businessman who worked with neighbors and community leaders to build up East Colfax as a bustling business corridor. Robinson was also thought of as a Western history aficionado who sought to preserve Denver’s frontier past.
Hank Robinson after commissioning as a Merchant Marine officer.
Robinson, friends said, used to recall how his grandfather sold merchandise from the back of a horse. Riding horses was a passion of Hank’s — he also cut cattle on the amateur rodeo circuit and over the year acquired a large collection of western art and memorabilia.
Robinson also collected antique cars.
“My father was the consummate people-person,” said Hank’s daughter, Patti Jo Robinson, in comments provided by the family. “He was successful in development and charity work in part because he loved people and talking to them.”
Robinson was born Aug. 22, 1921, to parents living in Denver’s west side Jewish neighborhood. Robinson spent a year attending the University of Colorado before being commissioned as a lieutenant in the U.S. Merchant Marine in the Pacific theater during World War II.
Following the war, he returned to help his father, Lazer Robinson, run an insurance business. In 1965, Lazer and Hank purchased a corner liquor store at 760 E. Colfax Ave. at a time when the area was filled with rundown motels, retail shops and cabarets. They later brought in Hank’s brother Jack.
Hank and Jack Robinson formed a coalition of community groups that pushed for redevelopment of the area. Argonaut eventually grew to the 40,000-square-foot shop it is today. Jack Robinson passed away in 2001.
Today, the shop is ran by Ron Vaughn, Hank Robinson’s son-in-law.
Robinson over the years received numerous community awards, including being chosen for the 2016 Honor Flight to view the new National World War II Memorial on the Washington Mall, in recognition of his service in the Pacific.
He also provided financial support to the Jewish communities and to Arapahoe House, a substance abuse treatment facility that recently closed.
“He wouldn’t let a postcard from some cause pass his desk without writing a check,” Patti Jo Robinson said.
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