Take a walk along any retail corridor in Santa Cruz and you’ll probably see a new business. According to the Santa Cruz Economic Development Office, more businesses opened here in 2015 than during any other one-year period, and most of them were in retail, tourism, and creative industries. Growth is everywhere, from downtown to the Swift Street Courtyard to Soquel Avenue. Those of us who relish cool tech, artisanal foods, and eclectic housewares couldn’t be happier.
But what’s behind the growth? Bonnie Lipscomb, director of the Santa Cruz Economic Development Office, points to their new website, choosesantacruz.com, which offers a look at what’s convincing so many would-be business owners to stake their claim here. “This website gives us the ability to tell the Santa Cruz story and promote all that Santa Cruz has to offer as a place to live, work, and pursue your passions,” she says. “It’s a tool to improve our ability to engage with the community, share our resources, and promote the success stories of local entrepreneurs.”
Just ask the culinary innovators at the Santa Cruz Food Lounge. Or Stacey Forrester of Sawyer Land & Sea on the Westside, who sees her store as a gathering place for people who love the outdoors and the Santa Cruz lifestyle. Suna Lock and Dana Rader, owners of Stripe downtown, joke that it opened with “four tables and a onesie,” but one store has morphed into two—Stripe and Stripe Men—both of them known for curating the best that local designers and artisans have to offer.
There’s a growing emphasis here on the importance of relationships, between place and products, locals and artists, foodies and farmers, designers and users. The forward-thinking nature of Santa Cruz makes it the perfect incubator for innovation in the retail sector. Economic development coordinator Amanda Rotella explains why telling that story is so important: “It feeds what we’re trying to do, which is to show the vibrancy and depth of local businesses and how they connect with the community,” she says.
Visitors to Santa Cruz are feeling the vibe, too. Hotel occupancy has been on the rise and there’s a strong demand for high-quality hotels. Many are in the pipeline, waiting to be built or remodeled. According to Rotella, 11 new properties are in the works that will result in 801 new hotel rooms. From boutique gems like La Bahia to the Courtyard Marriott (which will have a restaurant, meeting facilities, and underground parking) to new ownership at Hotel Paradox, Santa Cruz is poised to welcome every type of guest.
When it comes to shopping, expect to see Santa Cruz on the shelves—our stories, our lifestyle, and our amazingly creative community. Turns out we have a knack for gathering very cool things around us, and we love to share.