My daughter and I visited downtown this evening to check out some of its offerings and boy did the twinkling lights and holiday cheer take me back a few decades. With Steel WÜl headquartered on the east side, we rarely make the short yet tedious voyage to the Pacific Garden Mall. After our unusually festive experience, we would like to recommend our favorite businesses to patronize this holiday season.
On your way downtown cut through the upper harbor and swing by Anna Maria's Italian Restaurant on the corner of Eaton and 7th for the best angel hair in town. Don't be alarmed if the owner comes over and sings, "Anna Maria Alerbegetti come to my house and we'll have spaghetti". After your morning pasta, push away from the table, hop back on your bici and head towards town.Take the trestle bridge boogie straight down to Go Skate and pic up something special for that little skateboarder in your life. They have copers, skid plates, nose guards, clam diggers, Gotcha wear and the place smells like fresh NHS stickers.
Need a unique trinket for that special someone, drop into Lily Wong's on Pacific and peruse the eclectic supply of endless bounty. If you have that young adventurer type to shop for, make sure to lock your bike up to the maple tree on lower Pacific and head up the old wooden staircase to Western Mountaineering where you can rent nordic skis, pick up the latest in technical clothing, grab a Good Times and maybe even score a poster of Rick Sylvester ski jumping off El Capitan.
By this time you'll probably be getting a bit hungry so we suggest that you walk towards Book Shop Santa Cruz and grab the best potato in town at the Potato Works. They offer everything under the sun to complement their plump spuds (ham & cheese, sour cream and chives ect...). After you indulge in some afternoon carbs, swing by the Cooper House for a piece of chocolate or warm pretzel if you're still hungry. With snack in hand, stroll across the street to Leask's Department store to purchase the obligatory sweater for a distant cousin. If you come up empty handed, surely you will find that special gift at Woolworths five and dime shop next door or the ID Building across the street which is full of kitchen items and home furnishings.
Cycling gifts can be found at the locally owned and operated Spokesman on Cedar St. Make sure to say hello to the talent in the back (Tom Sullivan and Kelly Roberts). Hugh will set you up with anything Japanese or Italian. Don't step on 'Campy' Hugh's shop dog who can be found sunning in the doorway. If cycling is not your thing, walk down the street to Johnny's Sport Shop on the corner of Cathcart and Pacific Ave for the latest in hooded sweatshirts, converse all-stars, or junior high school
If you absolutely can not find an appropriate gift then visit the SC Pawn Shop which tends to hold weird hours of operation but no one has ever left there empty handed. They have everything from samurai swords to shrunken heads and everything in-between. Now that I think of it, maybe UCSC alum Tarantino based his pawn shop characters from Pulp Fiction on these guys.
These are just a few of our favorite stores to visit downtown. Make sure to take your bike lock, appetite, visa and a time machine.