Last Call at Caffé Pergolesi

[ Caffé Pergolesi, situated in a Victorian-era home at 418 Cedar Street in Santa Cruz, blurs the line between the downtown district and the historic district. August 10, 2017. ]

On August 9, news spread quickly that Santa Cruz’s oldest, best known, and most loved coffeehouse will shut their doors forever in two weeks, on August 26, 2017. Caffé Pergolesi, an institution of downtown Santa Cruz, holds a very special place in the hearts of so many people. Besides offering coffee, tea, beer, wine, cider, and snacks, the cafe is an important space for friends and groups to meet. Its walls serve as a gallery for local artists, and The Perg, as it’s known, is a one of a kind venue, particularly for punk and hardcore musicians.

Caffé Pergolesi is situated in a Victorian-era home at 418 Cedar Street, and blurs the line between the downtown district and the historic district, seeing as that it fits both bills. The Sidewalk Companion to Santa Cruz Architecture explains that 418 Cedar Street is a one-story, raised-basement, 1886 cottage emblazoned with the legend “Dr. Miller.” Originally, this sign read “Dr. Miller, Dentist.” The Perg is comprised of several rooms, including a lobby, blue room, green room and orange room. The furniture is eclectic and comprises plush antique couches and church pews. A back porch is utilized by employees, while a wooden deck along Cedar Street is popular for outside seating.

People keep asking for reasons. Why is Caffé Pergolesi closing? Are they going to relocate? No, they are not going to open elsewhere. The short answer for why they are closing is that their lease was not renewed. Word on the street, mixed with speculation, is that the property owner wanted more money for rent than Karl Heiman, the owner for the past 15 years, was willing to pay.

According to the weekly publication GoodTimes, Heiman says his landlord declined to renew the lease. Heiman also mentioned a couple other factors which impacted his decision to close up shop. There has been a rise in competition, as more coffee shops continue popping up around town. Heiman also grieved about the City not providing support in regards to the people that congregate near the intersection of Cedar and Elm Streets, outside of Caffé Pergolesi. On August 26, Caffe Pergolesi’s final day, all items will be served with 1973 prices.

Vintage photo of 418 Cedar Street in Santa Cruz. On January 20, 1954 the “Dr. Miller House” was a dental office for Dr. J. P. Miller. Photo courtesy Caffé Pergolesi from the Covello & Covello historical photo collection.

Santa Cruz New Tech Makeover

Some locals, as well as other interests, were clearly not comfortable with the culture of the clientele. For example, Sara Puhl commented, “When it was behind the bookshop pre earthquake [1989] it was a very different place. Last time I went there I felt like I couldn’t sit and enjoy my coffee without being bothered. Sad to see these businesses closing but this one needed some change to thrive.”

I spoke with a regular customer at Caffé Pergolesi on August 10, the day after news broke. They asked to remain anonymous while sharing some thoughts on the pending closure, and other changes taking place in Santa Cruz. “All the things attractive about this city are being pushed out by the people attracted to it. The cultural landscape of artists and older leftism that made the town more livable, and pushed out corporate interests, is now being undermined by property owners and the moving in of tech. Small business owners are also very conservative here. Nothing short of collective ownership can stop this process.”

Wes Modes, a local artist focused on social practice, sculpture, performance and new media work, summed up the situation writing, “Perg is closing in two weeks. Don’t ask what is happening here — you already know the answer and you knew it when Bargain Barn closed and when Logos closed and Seven Bridges closed in the last few months. You knew it when American Apparel and Urban Outshitterd moved in and when Forever 21 took that corner. You should have known back when Trader Joe’s replaced the family market that was there or the county’s only drive-in movie closed. Or when all the funky shops got replaced with high-end boutiques and expensive bars and restaurants. The answer is you can no longer afford to live here. You’ve been priced out and so have all your favorite places.”

Many people are being impacted by the changes taking place in Santa Cruz. Folks that previously lived in town, as well as those that visited over the years, are also feeling saddened. The funky alternative counterculture community known as Santa Cruz, loved by so many people near and far, continues getting its capitalist corporate makeover from the university, technology, and tourism industries.

Although there is still much more to say, photos taken on August 10, 2017 on Ocean Street, Cedar Street, and Pacific Avenue, as well as a couple other spots in Santa Cruz, help tell more of the story. Santa Cruz continues losing the spaces that make it special and unique. It’s a story familiar to many other cities, and continues at an unrelenting pace.

The End Is Here

In an open letter to local customers and friends, John Livingston of Logos Books and Records announced that after 48 years in business, the largest independent used book and music store on the central coast of California was hosting a retirement sale prior to closing their doors forever. The legendary two floor store on Pacific Avenue proudly declares, “Before Ebay, before Amazon, there was LOGOS doing it better for over 40 years. The best of the best in new and used books, music and more…”

Two floors of Logos Books and Records at 1117 Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz. August 10, 2017.

Jedzebel, a fair trade clothing and accessories company operating in Santa Cruz for over twenty years, announced on August 10 that they are going out of business as well. In an public statement, Jedzebel owners Janet and Ed Croteau wrote, “Thank you for your patronage – but it’s time for us to move on. We still have a lot of great deals available and will be closing permanently in the next few weeks so come on in while you still can!” Jedzebel says they have “been bringing fun and funky fashion to some of the coolest shops in the US, Japan, Canada, and Latin America for over 15 years.”

On June 2, Seven Bridges Organic Brewing Supply declared, “The end is here. Tomorrow, Saturday June 3rd, Seven Bridges will be open from 10 am – 4 pm. Come in on our LAST DAY and take advantage of these incredible deals. Everything is AT LEAST 50% OFF! We have lots of hops! We have brew kettles, we have silicone tubing, and bottle caps, and cheese kits and cultures, cleaning supplies, kegs, better bottles, brushes, books, wort chillers, wide mouth demijohns, wine yeast, green coffee, scales, thermometers, wine testing kits, lab glass, funnels, organic corn sugar, wine additives and more! And we have Seven Bridges T shirts and pint glasses so you can remember us fondly. COME ON DOWN AND LETS MAKE A DEAL.”

Goodwill’s Bargain Outlet relocated in July 2017 from the Harvey West area of Santa Cruz to Salinas. It was known as the Bargain Barn, a warehouse type structure behind the Goodwill processing plant on Pioneer Street. After processing the donations and distributing the higher-quality items to Goodwill stores in the area, the surplus donations came to the Bargain Barn. Customers could fill a standard size grocery bag with as many items as possible, and then pay a flat rate of five dollars.

Union Grove Music was located at 1003 Pacific Avenue, next to the Catalyst Club. After more than 40 years of supporting local musicians, Richard Gellis and Union Grove Music closed their doors for a final time in December 2016. Union Grove originally opened in 1972, and was Santa Cruz’s oldest and largest music store.

A Caffé Pergolesi gallery on flickr contains a trove of historical information and photos shared by Don Cochrane, as well as other photographers.

This article was composed in fond memory and appreciation of Caffé Pergolesi. Feel free to post a comment sharing a memory of Caffé Pergolesi, or the Santa Cruz you loved. Other additions, as well as corrections, are also welcome.