Karl Heiman, owner of Caffe Pergolesi in Santa Cruz
Dining Reviews

Caffe Pergolesi Prepares to Close

The beloved coffee shop shuts down Aug. 26

Karl Heiman, owner of Caffe Pergolesi for the past 14 years, says he’s closing up the beloved coffee shop due to ongoing problems with transients. PHOTO: KEANA PARKER

Sad news for all of us who celebrate the only-in-Santa Cruz ambience available in a dwindling handful of local landmarks. Hang on tight: Caffe Pergolesi, home to students, lovers, and coffee aficionados for more than 25 years, is closing. Hard to take, following so close on the heels of Logos. I have spent countless hours, and conducted dozens and dozens of interviews in this rambling sanctuary of bohemian vibes. The porch with its bowers and cool summer shade. What a loss!

Maybe it’s time you asked yourself just why Santa Cruz residents look the other way as an influx of non-taxpaying street denizens drive away customers from downtown retail, food, and social centers. Are we caving in to aggressive and unpleasant pop-up occupiers? Or are baby-boom retail owners simply hitting retirement age? Food for thought.

Mark your calendar for Saturday, Aug. 26. That’s the last day that the endlessly funky, wonderful, completely unique Caffe Pergolesi will be serving coffee. Owner Karl Heiman, who also owns Mr. Toots in Capitola is calling it quits for the coffeehouse that also served as a study hall, trysting spot, and site of many a chess match and spontaneous poetry readings.

“The happiest part of my time with Pergolesi was offering a space where people could come and sit, and feel at home and have a good cup of coffee that wasn’t super expensive,” Heiman told me last week. “I wanted it to be a place for the community to enjoy. I’ve owned it for 14 years, and I wish I could keep it open,” he says, with a noticeable sadness, “but I’m being backed into a corner. The transients are out of control. My customers don’t like it, people are afraid to walk by the building now. I’ve written to the city council and to the police—but nothing has been done.”

Heiman reassured me that his Capitola outpost of bohemian coffee, Mr. Toots, is absolutely staying open. “It doesn’t have the transient problem that Pergolesi suffered,” he says.

Graced with idiosyncratic architecture of Winchester Mystery House proportions, his incarnation of Pergolesi took over the Dr. Miller House, a gingerbread Victorian built in 1886, and hosted pretty much every single person who ever lived in or passed through Santa Cruz. Deliciously mismatched furniture—including the popular church pew—and candy-colored rooms with high ceilings and ample natural light made for memorable, and lengthy visits. Great coffee, tons of attitude, and those incredible cupcakes, plus the space to simply sit, read, and meditate—Pergolesi had it all.

The original Caffe Pergolesi, which brought hip urban atmosphere to a location behind what is now Lulu Carpenter’s, was home to poets, intellectuals, and creative gadflys until the earthquake of 1989. Advertising itself as “the oldest coffeehouse in Santa Cruz,” Pergolesi was the epitome of local, and several generations of UCSC students owe their bachelor’s degrees to long hours of study in the house’s welcoming, non-judgmental ambience. More recently, alas, it had attracted droves of aggressive panhandlers setting up house along the sidewalks and architecturally intricate front porch of the sprawling old Victorian.

On the last day, Aug. 26, Heiman will be offering Pergolesi wares at 1973 prices, “prices from the old days,” as a fond farewell and “thank you” to the many who have supported the coffeehouse over the years. Get on over there and soak up the unforgettable atmosphere one last time. 418 Cedar St., Santa Cruz.

 

Christina Waters was born in Santa Cruz and raised all over the world (thanks to an Air Force dad), with real-world training in painting, music, winetasting, trail running, organic gardening, and teaching. She has a PhD in Philosophy, teaches in the Arts at UCSC and sings with the UCSC Concert Choir. Her new book 'Inside the Flame'

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Kyle Ploy

    December 20, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    if the population has surged since 2014(after my stay 2013-2014), which is possible, i can potentially understand the decision to close down. but i believe the decision is based on more than unwanted strangers wandering in and preventing customers from having a pleasant experience. i don’t know what that is, this unpleasant experience, since i no longer live there but i’m going to guess and say it has something to do with a cultural shift or the owner’s personal financial problems.
    rent in santa cruz for a room was $700-$750 on average when i lived there and from what i’ve heard it’s still the same. in oakland, prices are similar since i’ve moved here a year ago december 2015. maybe santa cruz prices aren’t fair, even though it has an ocean and a forest. maybe it should be cheaper.
    personally i think value should come from the potential for entertainment and labor, and entertainment should obviously have diversity compounded into it, and labor likewise. these are things santa cruz cannot provide to the general population. in other words, diversity is not a priority. santa cruz has chosen to remain a location of privilege. it is a location of discrimination and especially a location of privilege to those students of ucsc or long term residents of santa cruz. look at the demographics. it is roughly the same and so is the belief system.

  2. Paige Concannon

    August 23, 2017 at 1:34 am

    So sad that the city council and police were of no help to you. It is awful that you have no choice but to close your doors. Thank you for many wonderful years !!

    Paige Concannon

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