The head of a high-end food import business in Portland died in a car crash during a business trip to California’s wine country, and his company’s general manager suffered severe injuries.

Taylor Griffin, 40, whose talents and tastes were well-known in the restaurant world, died after he lost control of the rented Chevrolet Corvette he was driving Sunday night on Highway 20 in Upper Lake, Calif. He was not wearing a seat belt and was thrown from the car.

Carrie Davenport, 43, of Freeport, who was wearing a seat belt, suffered several broken bones. She extricated herself from the wreckage of the yellow sports car and called for help, but not until 11 a.m. Monday, almost 12 hours after the crash, said Kory Reynolds, special duty officer with the California Highway Patrol.

Davenport didn’t know where she was, but police tracked her cellphone signal and directed rescuers to the site of the crash. She was flown by medical helicopter to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, north of San Francisco, where she was in stable condition Tuesday, family members said.

Initial indications are that excessive speed contributed to the crash. Police said they will do blood tests for alcohol or drugs, as required after fatal crashes.

In 2004, Griffin was convicted of driving to endanger and received his first of four license suspensions. He had accumulated six speeding tickets since 2004 in Maine, two for exceeding the speed limit by 20 mph or more. He got his last ticket in Maine in April 2010.


Davenport’s brother, Eric Blakeman, said she and Griffin were driving to a hotel to be close to a meeting scheduled for Monday morning with a major client, which he believes was Williams-Sonoma.

Davenport had no memory of the crash, Blakeman said. Afterward, the last thing she remembered was stopping for a slice of pizza and a salad.

Davenport’s brother-in-law, who lives in the San Francisco Bay area, stayed with her Monday night into Tuesday. Her husband, Mark Davenport, was flying to California to be with her, Blakeman said. Her daughters, ages 8 and 5, will stay with relatives.

Davenport’s work with Griffin’s company, The Rogers Collection, is rewarding, her brother said. Davenport is director of operations and general manager for the growing company.

“They do an amazing job. My sister loves it. It’s her passion,” Blakeman said. “Aside from her husband and kids, it was what she enjoys in life.

“It’s a small, very, very tight-knit group, a family atmosphere,” he said. “It’s going to be a tough loss for the company, nevermind the community. (Griffin) is just that good of a person.”


Blakeman said that as of Tuesday, his sister had not been told of Griffin’s death.

He is being mourned by many friends and associates in the restaurant industry.

“You would be hard-pressed to name a top chef-owned restaurant in the United States that didn’t deal with Taylor,” said Sam Hayward, owner and chef at the Fore Street restaurant in Portland.

Griffin took over The Rogers Collection from its founder, his uncle Dick Rogers, in 2003, according to the company’s website. The business was known for importing rare, high-quality products — including certain cheeses, olive oils and Spanish pork products — that are in demand with top chefs.

In 2006, Food and Wine magazine recognized Taylor as “one of 15 young tastemakers influencing the nation’s tastes for new foods,” according to his obituary.

Griffin had the business savvy, charm and willingness to build relationships with small producers, Hayward said. He was a good listener and understood the value that artisanal producers put on authenticity and loyalty.


“It takes time to build up that kind of intimacy and trust, and I think Taylor was exceptional at that,” said Hayward, who knew Griffin before he took ownership of the company.

The business was a perfect fit for someone with Griffin’s tastes and enjoyment of life, Hayward said.

Restaurants in the Portland area benefited from Griffin’s proximity. The absence of shipping costs put high-end foods within easier reach. Hayward sometimes heard from Griffin about a specialty product, such as great truffles or an order of a limited-quantity cheese, that became available unexpectedly.

Griffin became engaged recently to Nicola Manganello of Falmouth, and they had planned to marry soon, according to his obituary.

Besides her work with Griffin, Davenport is well-known for a tennis tournament that she and Blakeman have organized since their mother, Betty Blakeman, died of breast cancer in 1989. The tourney raises money for cancer treatment and support.

Blakeman said he is thankful that his sister is alive. He said their mother may have been watching over her.


“She’s got a guardian angel,” he said. “She’s going to be strong. She’ll come through this.”

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim contributed to this report.

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:


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