Just over three years ago, crews began work on the Aptos Village Project, a massive undertaking that would radically transform the sleepy Mid-County town.
Once an undeveloped lot abutting Nisene Marks State Park, the 12-acre property includes two new roads, nearly 50 condos and town homes, a grocery store and several eating establishments.
Front and center in the development is New Leaf Community Market, which opened on May 1 after an early-morning ribbon-cutting ceremony.
New Leaf Community Markets Senior Director Forrest Gonsiewski said the Aptos location – the company’s fourth in Santa Cruz County – was a natural progression for a business model that focuses on locally sourced organic food.
“This development was a really appealing site,” he said.
The Aptos location is a mixture of new construction, melded with a nearly 130-year-old building known as the Hihn Apple barn. Workers moved the massive structure in early 2016, lifting and rotating it 300 feet.
The new store will include a prepared food section, including pizza by the slice and a ramen bar, with indoor and outdoor seating.
“I’m excited to see how the village will evolve,” Gonsiewski said. “I think it’s going to be wonderful. It has a lot of local businesses, and I think it will be a great hub for the community.”
Also included in the village is Penny Ice Creamery, whose opening in 2008 sparked a spate of other artisan ice cream shops to open in Santa Cruz.
With its flagship location in Santa Cruz and a second in Pleasure Point, the Aptos store will be the third for owners Zachary Davis and Kendra Baker.
Davis said he has had his eye on the location for the past five years as planning progressed and property managers vowed to fill the business spaces with local business.
“I felt it was a great spot to be a nucleus of the community,” he said.
Davis estimates he will open within the next few months.
Penny has since its inception made its ice cream entirely from scratch, using locally sourced ingredients, Davis said.
While that part of the business model has not changed, Davis said he plans to give the new location it own personalized decorative touch.
“We definitely don’t do the cookie cutter design,” he said.
Also included in the village’s culinary offerings is Cat & Cloud coffee shop and Mentone, a Mediterranean-themed restaurant led by chef David Kinch, whose 3-Michelin-starred Manresa is considered one of the best restaurants in the U.S.
Ellen Gil, who has owned Sockshop & Shoe Company in Santa Cruz for 31 years with her husband Eric, hopes to open their new location in the village in the first part of May.
She said the opportunity for business owners to purchase their spaces rather than rent made the move a “no-brainer.”
The Aptos location will share space with a wine-tasting room, offering the “perfect pairing of wine and shoes,” Gil said.
She added that the village has given Aptos a central neighborhood gathering spot, and is ideal for a population increasingly looking to keep their business local.
“It’s going to be a great little center,” she said. “The exciting thing about this project is that it’s going to become its own little community. I think it’s going to be an incredible spot.”
The current development is the first phase of the three-phase project. Phase Two will begin when the first phase wraps up, and is projected to take approximately 18 months.
For information, visit www.theaptosvillage.com.