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A fresh look on lower Pacific: Six downtown Santa Cruz businesses you can’t miss

This holiday season, support small businesses and check out these top 6 Downtown Santa Cruz recommendations for local fun.
(Santa Cruz Economic Developement)

With the holiday season fast approaching, it’s time to start making plans for the impending festivities. Luckily for you, Downtown Santa Cruz is bursting with new and exciting local establishments to fulfill every last one of your holiday needs.

With new developments popping up around Pacific Avenue and Laurel, let’s take a look at six locally owned business located on the southern blocks Pacific Avenue that add to the color of Downtown Santa Cruz.

Cognito Clothing

Address: 821 Pacific Avenue, Santa Cruz, CA

Cognito Clothing storefront
(Cognito Clothing)

Need a 1950s bowling shirt for your next soiree? Looking to jazz up your wardrobe with pinup-inspired sundress or the perfect pair of cat’s eye sunglasses? Since 1982, Cognito Clothing has had you covered. This well-stocked little shop on lower Pacific sells a mix of vintage and retro-inspired clothing for men and women - including lines from many independent designers around the world. That includes brands like Effie’s Heart, Retrolicious, nooworks and many more.

Their sidewalk sales racks are almost impossible to resist for any tourist or local who is perusing downtown. Who doesn’t need a dress adorned with rainbow pinstripes or a swimsuit that would make Esther Williams swoon?

Their location makes Cognito something of a destination, says the store’s manager/buyer, Janis Coulter. “We have a very loyal clientele.” And it’s a multigenerational one at that. Coulter says it’s been really fun for her to see long-time customers now coming in with their children and grandchildren to shop for unique fashion finds. She also praises their neighbors on this strip of Pacific, for being a tight-knit community of business owners.

Cruz Kitchen and Taps

Address: 145 Laurel Street, Santa Cruz, CA

Cruz kitchen food shot
(Cruz Kitchen & Taps)

Back in January, Mia Thorn and her business partner, Dameon DeWorken, took over the space on Front Street that had housed the Saturn Cafe for over two decades – what she calls, a “really iconic space.” Opening a new restaurant during a pandemic was a “really crazy thing,” Thorn says, “but we feel the future is just so bright.”

DeWorken previously ran his own food truck, Drunk Monkeys, before opening Cruz Kitchen and Taps. The restaurant serves brunch, lunch and dinner – with an eclectic menu that includes everything from biscuits and gravy, fish tacos, burgers and even a “vegan poke.” They also serve a selection of beer and wines with a heavy emphasis on local producers like Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery, Discretion Brewing and Buena Vista Brewery. And it’s family-friendly - there’s an entire “groms’ menu” featuring foods like chicken nuggets and grilled cheese sandos.

Both Thorn and DeWorken are Santa Cruz locals, and she says it’s been great to see the new businesses opening up around Cruz Kitchen & Taps’ location, such as the new Cafe Iveta location and the Big Basin Vineyards tasting room just down the street. “It’s a really up and coming area,” she said. “It’s amazing to watch.”

Far West Fungi

Address: 224 Laurel Street, Santa Cruz, CA

Far West Fungi had long run a retail shop at San Francisco’s Ferry Building before they opened their Santa Cruz outpost in late 2019. The family-run organic farm, based in Moss Landing and San Martin, has also sold at farmers markets around the San Francisco and Monterey Bay areas. Opening in downtown Santa Cruz represented an opportunity to expand their Monterey Bay presence.

The packed downtown shop sells a wide variety of culinary mushrooms in all forms - fresh, dried, powdered – operates a small cafe with kombucha on tap and also sells everything from grow-your-own mushroom kits to truffle-infused olive oils and mushroom tinctures.

“Our goal is to provide Santa Cruz with a local source of high quality mushrooms, a healthy and delicious menu of vegetarian, mushroom-forward dishes, and an environment in which ‘fungiphiles’ can enrich their experience and knowledge of all things fungus.”

— Naomi Wolf, manager of Far West Fungi

Their location on the corner of Laurel and Pacific was picked conscientiously - because the company saw a lot of potential in this up-and-coming portion of downtown.


Address: 320 Cedar Street, Santa Cruz, CA

metavinyl inside

Vinyl aficionados shopping in downtown Santa Cruz can’t miss Metavinyl on the corner of Maple and Cedar. Whether you’re looking for the latest Childish Gambino album or a Tom Waits reissue, you’re likely to find something – or a few somethings – you just have to have at this cozy corner record shop.

New owners Roody Kuhn and Tyler Davin-Moore took over this well-curated shop in May of this year, and they’ve been busy keeping it stocked with a full collection of new and used vinyl and accessories. They’re also holding the occasional listening party and other events in conjunction with the local live music scene; such as a recent pre-party before indie folk singer-songwriter Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s recent show at the nearby Kuumbwa Jazz Center.

Their location off the main drag of Pacific Avenue is right off the beaten path; “you kind of have to try to find us,” joked the owners.

Graffix Pleasure

Address: 809 Pacific Avenue, Santa Cruz, CA

Since the 1990s, Graffix Pleasure has been providing downtown visitors with handcrafted goods and apparel. At once a throwback to a different time and a follower of the latest trends, here’s where you go for those one-of-a-kind, only-in-Santa-Cruz gifts and memorabilia. Some of their most popular products include posters, body jewelry, and shirts from Liquid Blue, known as the world’s best tie-dye shirts available, according to employees.


Address: 819 Pacific Avenue, Santa Cruz, CA

Zachary's storefront
(Zachary’s Restaurant)

On any given weekend morning, there’s a line of families, college students, tourists and locals alike waiting to dive into a Mike’s Mess or a plate of their famous sourdough pancakes. Zachary’s Restaurant, which has been serving lunch and breakfast for almost 40 years, added outdoor seating during the pandemic’s indoor dining restrictions, which now lets them serve even more patrons.

Once a barbecue joint, the restaurant was purchased by two UCSC graduates and turned into its current incarnation in 1985. Owners Tom Watson and Cathy Kriege have pretty much seen it all during their tenure, including the re-building of the Pacific Avenue business corridor in the wake of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

“The longevity has been integral to our success. We’re in a beautiful historic building that was here before the earthquake and we have a community that’s been coming here for 35 years.”

— Charlie Watson, restaurant manager and the son of Tom Watson and Cathy Kriege

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