From doulas to video stores, no shortage of Black-owned businesses in Santa Cruz
Graphic designer Troy Chasey set out to build community among Santa Cruz County’s Black business owners in the wake of George Floyd’s murder last year, and the Black Owned Santa Cruz directory has helped do just that.
Juneteenth — celebrated annually on June 19 to recognize the end of slavery in the U.S., beginning in 1865 — has been widely recognized nationwide and right here in Santa Cruz, including with historic steps in Congress this week toward making Juneteenth a federal holiday.
This year, the Black Surf Club Santa Cruz set the stage Sunday with a pre-Juneteenth Liberation Paddle-Out, and this weekend the city will welcome guests who “believe in freedom and equality for all people” with multiple gatherings, including a Liberation Hike at Wilder Ranch and music, dance and delicious soul food in Laurel Park on Saturday and an event Sunday that will include repainting the Black Lives Mural on Center Street in front of City Hall.
With a Saturday gathering next door to the just-renamed London Nelson Community Center, a Sunday event centered on...
While Juneteenth is an excellent opportunity to both learn and celebrate Black history and culture, it can also be a chance for locals and visitors alike to connect with Santa Cruz’s own Black business owners.
As of 2019, Black or African American residents made up just 1.5% of the county population. In Santa Cruz itself, that number was slightly higher, but still low, at only 2.1%.
Santa Cruz resident Troy Chasey moved to the area in 1999 -- it “felt like home,” he said -- and began his business, Capitola Design, with his wife, Kathleen, soon thereafter. He said he felt appreciated and welcomed by the Santa Cruz community — but over the past 22 years, he hadn’t noticed a great deal of Black representation among the small business community or the community at large.
“I have lived most of my life in areas where there were not as many Black people as other races,” he said.
With the national and international upheaval surrounding George Floyd’s murder last year, Chasey wanted to create a stronger sense of community among Black business owners in Santa Cruz County. He began reaching out to contacts across the county, and Black Owned Santa Cruz was formed last summer.
“The community actually reached out,” he said. “People accepted that there was this issue that Black business owners were dealing with, and they were looking for ways to support.”
Although updating existing signage from Louden to London will take time, the downtown community center will officially...
The criteria to join the directory are straightforward: Any Santa Cruz County business or contractor with a Black principal or partner can be listed. The online directory has over 40 listings, with everything from music instructors to restaurants to personal trainers.
Below are just a few of the businesses listed, with the Black business owners detailing their own experiences working in Santa Cruz County and their plans for the post-COVID future.
Brie Buxton, Labor Doula Services
Having a mother who worked as a labor and delivery nurse for Santa Cruz’s Dominican Hospital piqued Brie Buxton’s interest in the process of childbirth. Years later, after having her first child, Buxton reevaluated her career plans and “fell in love with the idea of supporting other people on their birth journey, because I was so well supported.”
Phone: (831) 359-2668
Buxton soon received her Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association training and began offering families across the county full-spectrum doula services, including postpartum, miscarriage and adoption. She says she’s grateful to and excited by every client she interacts with on their own journey.
“Each birth I attend is life-changing for the people who are experiencing it and the doula who’s attending it,” she said. “The more I do it, the more I’m in awe of our bodies and our capabilities, and I become more drawn to advocate for and support families.”
During the pandemic, Buxton faced the challenges of hospitals’ COVID-19 restrictions, with limitations on who could come into the delivery room. She joined some of her clients via video calls, and encouraged others to focus on home birth and out-of-hospital birth — but there were still many struggles, which she and other doulas hope won’t happen again.
“We need people to support this new family and this transition into parenthood,” she said. “I’m here to help — we can’t just abandon families in this great journey of parenthood, and that’s what keeps me going.”
Ashlyn Adams, Westside Video
Ashlyn Adams joined Westside Video in 2004 and four years later became the store owner. In the 13 years since, she has seen the video store model — to say nothing of the film industry itself — take many twists and turns, but she remains convinced of the importance of Westside Video.
Phone: (831) 607-9378
Address: P.O. Box 381, Santa Cruz, CA 95061
“Video stores are very much community spaces,” she said. “I’ve seen an entire generation of this town grow up — it feels vital, and this community has definitely become tighter over time.”
Before the pandemic, Adams and her team were preparing movie screenings and providing space for Santa Cruz locals to come together. They quickly had to pivot to keep themselves and customers safe, putting everything from the brick-and-mortar store into storage and firing up the Movie Mobile to deliver to customers ordering films via the Westside Video website. Adams worked to take care of her staff, but she didn’t want this to be the end of the store.
The news of George Floyd’s murder last May spurred interest from the Santa Cruz community in supporting Black-owned local businesses, and more customers began reaching out to Adams. A few months later, Adams was connected to the Black Owned Santa Cruz directory, and has been able to focus on the store’s future with support from a new business network.
“After all this time of trying to put together a community center through movies, it felt really good to have a new type of community not just for customers, but for me, too,” she said.
Adams and her team are planning out the coming months with changing COVID-19 guidelines in mind, and aim to lean more into a community-centered focus with outdoor and virtual screenings alongside film-related classes.
Valeria Miranda, Santa Cruz Art League
Originally from Rio de Janeiro, Valeria Miranda came to the U.S. nearly 30 years ago and has spent the past 20 in Santa Cruz County. Over that time, she’s been able to delve into work throughout the art sphere, from museums to nonprofits, joining the Santa Cruz Art League in 2016. She notes that she was often the only person of color at her positions, and thus emphasized the importance of creating opportunities for other people of color in the arts.
Phone: (831) 426-5787
Address: 526 Broadway, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
“The arts are a great way to give voice to difficult subjects, complicated feelings — for people to express themselves in ways that they might not be able to otherwise,” she said.
The Santa Cruz Art League celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2019 but shut its doors just months later amid the pandemic. Forced to consider other avenues to deliver on the organization’s mission to provide “a space for artists to gather, create and display their artworks,” Miranda and the board took the opportunity to try new things, such as virtual classes and more local artist representation.
After reopening once more in May, the staff is focusing more on showcasing local and more diverse artists.
“Before what happened last year, me and other Black business owners here — no one really paid attention to us,” she said. “And we’ve been doing this work for a long time — showing more representation matters.”
Troy Chasey, Capitola Design
Established in 2001, Capitola Design specializes in marketing, advertising and graphic design for both print and web clients.
Phone: (831) 465-1972
Address: 4420 Esta Lane, Soquel, CA 95073
Troy Chasey — co-owner alongside his wife, Kathleen — was first inspired to lean into the graphic design world by his mother, saying he “even started as a child.” After moving to the Bay Area from San Diego to attend UC Berkeley and then working for software firms in Mountain View, Chasey did side work as a graphic designer, and ultimately made the move over the hill.
Even before launching Black Owned Santa Cruz, Chasey saw a greater community sense of wanting to connect with Black-owned businesses. Since launching, Chasey has connected with many more Black business owners, learning of “more than half” through creating the directory.
“It’s helpful for all to be able to network with each other,” he said. “The evolution of this directory is to have in-person networking opportunities, and to get more people in touch with one another.”
Chasey said he loves working with local businesses and businesses just starting up, seeing Capitola Design clients’ new ideas come to life during the creative processes. That work led to more connections with Black-owned, BIPOC-owned and small businesses, coming together in more meaningful ways amid the pandemic.
“We created a personal connection where there was none before — I feel a real connection to all of the people who decided to sign up,” he said. “It felt good to give this information to the community, from a place of celebration.”