Today, the Swift Street Courtyard area, in combination with the adjoining businesses off of Ingalls Street, has become a nexus for locals who like fresh local products, cool shops, and hand crafted wine and beer. But these buildings, hark back to a past when larger-scale agriculture was a mightier force on the north coast of Santa Cruz, and the Westside had a more industrial flavor in general.
A Vegetable Packing Hub
During the middle part of the last century this area was part of a busy center of vegetable processing and packing and and relied on rail to ship its goods. In 1948, the Artichoke and Sprout Growers Association built the building at 334 Ingalls Street – now home of the West End Tap and Kitchen. Birds Eye Frozen Food leased a portion of it but their space needs soon grew. In 1951, to accommodate Birds Eye, the building at 402 Ingalls Street was built. Under this roof, vegetables were packed, primarily by women, and sold with the labels: “Coast King”, “Coast Queen” and “Coast Prince.”
The external infrastructure needs of these packing plants were large.
• A new water main was brought in by the City to handle the huge water needs.
• A new railroad spur was added running along the back side of the buildings.
• During peak harvest, refrigerator cars were loaded around the clock via a dedicated steam-powered “switcher.”
• A permanent nursing station was on site to care for the workers (located where El Salchichero is now).
• A huge concrete vault or storage pond was located on the east side of the parking lot to temporarily hold the vegetable waste.
• There was a a huge open air truck scale where the dining area inside Kelly’s French Bakery is today.
Within 402 Swift Street, water entered the building and was fed into two concrete troughs or “flumes” that ran the length of the building in the concrete slab floor. All discarded vegetable waste was thrown into the flumes where it was then carried in the water stream to the buildings exit and then via a pipe to an open concrete vault/pond. The water was pumped back to the head of the flume and the vegetable waste was then scooped out and put in a flatbed truck for disposal.
Prior to shipping, a portable ice blower was used to top off the produce in each car with a layer of ice cubes. An ice crusher was needed to crush the block ice which came from the Union Ice Company on Laurel and Chestnut. A screw auger/trough system then brought the ice to the blower. Known as “top icing”, the ice generally lasted until the train got to Council Bluffs, Iowa or Saint Louis, Missouri before being replenished.
A cold room for storage was located in the southeast end of the building (today the home of Sawyer, Illuminee and Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing). The floor, ceiling and walls were all insulated with 2 layers of 2 inch thick cork, each coated with asphalt. Examples of the insulation can be seen in a cross sectional “cork donut” located inside Kelly’s French Bakery and exposed inside Sawyer.
Harbinger of a Changing Neighborhood
By the beginning of the 21st century, much of the light industry on the Westside was gone. Vegetable packing and heavy rail use were no longer and other large businesses had closed up or were leaving. The Wrigley gum factory stopped making gum in 1996, Texas Instruments closed in 2001, and Lipton Tea closed in 2002. This exodus left a hole in the local economy and some big industrial spaces.
In 2002, Kelly’s French Bakery owners Kelly and Mark Sanchez began revitalizing the old buildings at 402 Swift Street. Their project was one of the forerunners of big changes to the Westside in general. Their bakery and the small entrepreneurial shops in the courtyard thrived. Former City Council Member Lynn Robinson told the Good Times in 2012, “It was like the Westside was ready and waiting for this. They needed someone with the vision and the willingness to invest, and it’s been happening repeatedly now. It tells you that the market is there and people are supporting it.” The Sanchez’ business was probably helped by customers who came from the work/live complex of 22 units created by another visionary, the architect Marc Primac. His work/live complex opened at about the same time only a block away.
Today, the Westside continues to transform from large single purpose companies to art and lifestyle oriented small businesses. A great example is William Ow’s steady transformation, beginning in 2004, of the 385,000-square-foot Wrigley Building. From 1955-1996 that huge building cranked out one thing: gum. Today, Ow has subdivided the space into a bustling beehive of eclectic tenants who produce everything from paintings, clothing and energy drinks to bicycles and research for the USGS. It’s also becoming a hub to tone your body with gymnastics, aerial or martial arts! Mark Primac also continues to push the art lifestyle way of life with the new 20-acres of live/work space on Delaware Avenue known as the Delaware Addition.
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- A display in Kelly's French Bakery put together by F. John LaBarba, building contractor, in July 2003.
- Drawing Us Together. Christina Waters, The Good Times. November, 14, 2012. http://www.gtweekly.com/index.php/santa-cruz-news/good-times-cover-stories/5903-drawing-us-together.html
- Personal Communication with Mark Sanchez, owner Kellys French Bakery and The Swift Street Courtyard, August 2013.
- William's Westside. Elizabeth Limbauch, The Good Times. September, 2, 2014. http://www.gtweekly.com/index.php/santa-cruz-news/good-times-cover-stories/4335-williams-westside.html
- Wrigley Santa Cruz plant for sale. Lorna Fernandez, Silicon Valley Business Journal. Oct 27, 1996. http://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/stories/1996/10/28/story4.html?page=all