Manufacturing to Entrepreneurship: The Story of Westside Santa Cruz’s Business District

A little rain couldn’t stop the Santa Cruz community from coming together. On October 27th Allterra held a ribbon-cutting event at their office to celebrate the opening of their new warehouse at 116 McPherson Street. The evening came together with Hawaiian music from the Wave Tones, refreshments courtesy of New Leaf Community Markets, beer from Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery, Mexican cuisine from Taqueria Santa Cruz, and baked desserts from Companion Bake Shop. Despite the drizzle, the Santa Cruz Construction Guild and the local neighborhood came together to celebrate the success of businesses that call the Westside home.

With a broad range of individuals in attendance, there was an underlying feeling of admiration for the local community and a hospitable ambiance. As the sun went down, enthusiastic conversations arose from the accumulation of people in the Allterra building. Tacos were plated, drinks were poured, and an exciting night commenced. Around 6:00 pm the ribbon cutting ceremony was performed by some of Allterra’s youngest members sporting inversely proportional-sized scissors. Several community members came forward and shared words complementing the revitalized and thriving business district. Mayor Cynthia Mathews described with appreciation the wonderful community that had assembled to enjoy an evening of celebration. You seldom see a neighborhood so sincere and flourishing.

Westside Santa Cruz has long been known for its Lipton Tea and Wrigley’s Chewing Gum factories which thrived from the 70s through the 90s. Upon their closure, many questions arose around what was to become of the famed manufacturing hub. The visionaries of Santa Cruz answered. Local businesses filled in what is now known as The University Business Park, and energized the old plant to blossom with innovation. Despite the prior downfall of larger companies, it was discovered that local (not foreign) businesses could be the solution to revitalizing Santa Cruz. The U.S. Small Business Administration has estimated that small businesses represent 99.7 percent of job-creating businesses. Since 1995, small companies have generated 64 percent of new jobs. Innovative businesses have become a characteristic of Santa Cruz, exhibiting a strong work ethic and unwavering determination. Investing in local companies ensures that finances stay local and will continue to benefit the area. It is small industry that has provided new opportunity for the community, and a paved the way for creativity, opposed to distant corporations.

Homegrown businesses convey community values. Ellen Thrasher, associate administrator for the Department of Entrepreneurship stated that “A small business is part of the heartbeat of the larger community.” The success experienced by our local firms is not surprising, as the passion they exude for their trade and the neighborhood they serve is invigorating and enduring. Santa Cruz exhibits the diversity of products from food and bikes to solar power and the arts, making our community original. Although local, it is not exclusive, welcoming creativity. Creativity in SC has not been subjugated by big business but has instead embraced and catered to the varied needs of the surrounding public. The intricate mosaic of local industries that give the west-side its charm is most certainly a cause for celebration.

It is said that William Wrigley Jr. had a sign that hung above his desk reading “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” Although Wrigley’s Gum Factory is long gone, the enthusiasm and drive within the community has prospered. The gem that is the Westside has demonstrated the inevitable success of determined individuals and provides a gleaming example of the productivity of the Santa Cruz community.