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Surf City, Here We Come: Buy 'em as gifts or use 'em to help you remember where you live.

Logo a Go-Go

For a uniquely local last-minute gift strategy, it's time to brand your friends and loved ones Santa Cruz

By Janet Blaser

Here it is, a scant two weeks before Christmas and you realize you're still a couple gifts short of your expected quota. Never fear, right in your own neighborhood--indeed, probably right in your favorite coffee shop--can be found a plethora of unique, interesting and, yes, almost one-of-a-kind gifts for just about everyone on your list.

Whether it's relatives in Michigan who've only visited once, friends in town you see all the time, or even business contacts you need to impress, the perfect present is not far away.

In downtown Santa Cruz, almost every eating and drinking establishment has some kind of logo-ized clothing item available for you, the consumer. And Saturn Cafe (145 Laurel St.), that venerable Santa Cruz institution, has arguably some of the most distinctive shirts around--and the most convenient shopping hours, since they're open till 3 or 4am every day. Set on a black or white background is the flaming Saturn logo, either in bright reds and oranges or, glittery versions of the same fiery colors. Cute, contemporary spaghetti-strap tank tops and baseball-sleeve styles will appeal to the twentysomethings and younger. Throw in a gift certificate for a Chocolate Madness and you're set.

A few blocks away is Pizza My Heart (1116 Pacific Ave., and 209 Esplanade, Capitola) another local mainstay where you can find cool T-shirts and pullover sweatshirts in white with a red surfboard logo. Sometimes there's a special deal, too, of a T-shirt and slice for $5--eat the pizza, give away the shirt, you can't lose as long as you don't get them confused. And at Chocolate (1522 Pacific Ave.), you can find coffee mugs imprinted with photos of accordionist Morgani's mini-River Street sign in front of the bistro's greenery-filled patio. There are also mugs with several of the pieces from last year's Seventh Sense Fashion Show, including artist Kathleen Crocetti's Gap-label dress. One of the Kuumbwa Jazz Center's (320 Cedar St.) black-with-rainbow-lettered shirts or tote bags--stuffed with tickets to an upcoming show or at least a schedule of events--would be a fantastic hostess gift.

In the Aptos area, both locations of Surf City Coffee Company (3070 Porter, Soquel; 9105 Soquel Dr., Aptos) have you covered. Not only do they have beautiful clothes with an equally beautiful logo (modeled on the giant glass etching in the Soquel store), they've thoughtfully made gift-packs in pretty boxes that are ready to pick up and go. Here you'll find embroidered baseball caps, zippered and pullover sweatshirts, and short and long sleeve T-shirts in muted earth tones that are classy and elegant. Mom, Dad, grown-up siblings, teenage nephews and nieces--you could outfit them all. Or, grab a gift pack with a pound of "Surfer's Blend" coffee in a glossy red bag and a colorful travel mug (stainless steel or ceramic).

If parents or relatives have visited here in the past, chances are you took them to Gayle's Bakery & Rosticceria (504 Bay Ave., Capitola). If that's the case, any of the clothes, or even a cookbook, would be great gifts. Premade gift bags of stollen, crostini, flavored nuts, specialty coffee and, yes, even gourmet fruitcake (is that an oxymoron?) are also available. Perhaps the most charming of Gayle's designs is the life-size, full-color croissant, printed on T's and sweatshirts--other options include line drawings of the patio and "Il Gato" urging the reader to mangia. Tuck in a postcard-sized watercolor of the cafe and garden and some bake-at-home cookie dough, and you've got a complete Gayle's experience.

Because we live where we live, consider a gift from Dharma's ( 4250 Capitola Road, Capitola) to convince those who know you of your continued political correctness and environmental awareness. All jokes aside, Dharmawear is actually high-quality, all-cotton clothing, in muted earth tones that are soothing to the eye as well as to the wearer. And you gotta love the logo of a turquoise cow meditating with the motto "Good for you, good for the world," which of course has the added bonus of actually being the restaurant's operating philosophy. Good gifts for those who care, and the vegetarians in your life.

Let's Keep This a Family Newspaper, OK? These are the clean versions of the Ideal's accessories.

East Side, Dressed Side

On the east side, many of the small, owner-run businesses offer eye-catching clothing. Chill Out (1222 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz and 860 41st Ave, Capitola) has one of the most extensive lines, with hoodie sweatshirts, and all manner of T-shirts and tank tops. Chill Out's retro-style logo is red and white, and lends itself perfectly to these modern styles. For the rug rats on your list, infant shirts are available here, too. If you've got a theater-lover to buy for, and there's a show at the Rio Theatre (1205 Soquel Ave.), you can score a T-shirt at the box office that will probably eventually be a collector's item. And if you've got teenagers on your list, Bill's Wheels (1240 Soquel Ave.) carries shirts and sweatshirts from many local skate, cycling and sport companies. Locally, their own logo is well-loved and well-known from elementary school age on up.

Down near the ocean, the Seabright Brewery (519 Seabright Ave.) offers a mélange of clothes, including thin, poly-fiber zip-front cycling jerseys, inspired by owner Charlie Meehan's personal hobby. Here you'll find big, thick pullover sweatshirts in dark autumn colors, adorned with a white line drawing of a pelican in flight; there are also T-shirts and embroidered caps for the guys, and light blue stretchy tank tops for women.

Those who've enjoyed the nightlife in the area, or the beaches--or, ahem, both--would undoubtedly feel cool wearing clothes from either of these popular spots. The Ideal Bar & Grill (106 Beach St., Santa Cruz, at the entrance to the Municipal Wharf) has its own decidedly humorous take on clothing-to-take-home. To be sure, these "dirty shirts" do a good job of advertising specialties like Lobster Night ("Crack It, Dip It, Suck It"), Prime Rib Night ("One-Inch Thick and Juicy"), martinis ("Straight Up--and Dirty") and the bar scene ("Drink. Guzzle. Slurp. Slam"). And they'll definitely be remembered and worn, depending on the age and character of the recipient. Sweatshirts and T's are also available with a classic black-and-white photo of a young lady with three big fish--a former Miss Santa Cruz, maybe?

At the other end of the county, Zelda's (203 Esplanade, Capitola Village) has some of the hippest and best-made items around, especially for the females of the species, who know that a little bit o' spandex goes a long way toward lookin' good. Black stretch semisheer net with a small and tasteful red logo, pale green ribbed with a silvery-white logo--the shirts are da bomb. Thin knit, long-sleeve hooded shirts are also cute, and come in a rainbow of dark and light colors. For the guys, choose from beanies, baseball caps, T's and hooded sweatshirts. Here you'll also find the most unusual logo item this reporter discovered: thick cotton-knit stadium blankets, perfect for the drive-in, the beach, a picnic or the couch. And, at only $24.95, a real steal. Zelda's is open late and open early--what more could you ask for, free parking? Well then, check out the 11th space before you get to the front door--somehow, miraculously, there's no meter.

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From the December 11-18, 2002 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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