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Arlene is a woman who believes it’s good to say “yes” to everything inspiring that comes her way! She’s one of those people who loves to be busy and continues to find new interests. She is the owner of Robust, a wine-centric restaurant in Webster Groves, as well as the principal of Robust Solutions, a marketing and communications firm. She started Robust in 2007 with her husband, Stanely Browne. He brings the hotel and restaurant management background to the partnership—he’s also a certified sommelier and specialist of wine—and Arlene brings the marketing and community partnerships to the table.
Working with her husband has been one of the most difficult and rewarding aspects of Arlene’s business. They live together, work together and seemingly talk about the business non-stop. During Covid when they were short-staffed and had to completely change their business model, they were a team that just decided they would do what it took to survive and thrive. And they did.
They started Robust from scratch while raising small children. It was messy and wonderful. According to Arlene, “my children and my husband are my favorite people on earth. I love spending time with them, cooking with them, and having adventures with them. They are what keeps me going.”
Arlene suggested their success, in part, is based on a commitment to constantly evolve. She knows that everyone is looking for the next great restaurant. So how do they stay fresh? They set up a stand serving wine and cocktails during Covid, (lemonade stand-style), and created their own delivery service called “Curbies.” During the summer, they have paella Wednesdays and live music on the patio. They constantly change their menus, collaborate with other industry businesses, and never stop looking for the next new concept. Right now, they are working with STLVegGirl, Karen Dugan, to support vegan week—the first week of May—in Webster and Kirkwood by featuring three new vegan dishes.
Arlene uses both Robust and Robust Solutions to give back to the community. Many of their efforts go to support Marygrove and COCA through donations as a percentage of revenue, champagne bars, wine tastings, and so much more. She volunteers personal time and uses her restaurant as a vehicle to raise funds for organizations she believes in.
With Robust Solutions, the majority of her time is spent handling all media and community relations for Once Films, a boutique video production company, who does a lot of work with non-profit organizations. Along with Chris Ryan, Owner/Director of Once Films, she recently helped launch STL.org, a non-profit which creates videos highlighting individuals who excel in creativity, community building and impacting culture in St. Louis.
Arlene is committed to her business, rigorous workouts, and is fueled by her dedication to her family. And her recommendations: hot barre, HIIT classes, and strength training regularly; and when it comes to wine, white burgundy wines from France, Brunellos from Italy and, of course, all the champagne!