News Article


Chamber to Recognize 2014 Businesses and Leaders


Six award recipients will be honored at the Chamber’s 126th annual Community Gala and Awards Dinner on November 14th from 5:30-9:30pm at the Cocoanut Grove. Each year, the Chamber celebrates the accomplishments and contributions of the Santa Cruz County individuals, businesses and organizations that reflect excellence in business, governance, public service, and community development. The 2014 award recipients have two things in common – innovation and an extraordinary commitment to sustaining and developing the people of our community. Purchase Tickets and More Information

Date:         November 14, 2014, 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Location:    Cocoanut Grove
What:        Annual Community Gala & Award Dinner
Man of Year: Erik Johnson, Founder, Eric’s DeliCafe 
                 Woman of the Year: Martina O’Sullivan, Dignity – Dominican Hospital 
                 Business of the Year: The Glass Jar 
                 Organization of the Year: Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau 
                 Entrepreneur of the Year: Lloyd Tabb, Looker 
                 Lifetime Achievement: Neal Coonerty
Why:          Celebrate the award winners and their achievements Man of Year: Erik Johnson, Founder of Erik’s Deli Cafe
Tickets for the Annual Community Recognition Gala to honor these prestigious community leaders and businesses are available now.

    Man of the Year: Erik Johnson, Founder of Erik's DeliCafe: 

Erik Johnson, founder of Erik’s DeliCafé, is the archetype of the locally-grown entrepreneur. He founded Erik’ Deli in 1973, acquiring a small bakery in Scotts Valley for $429. With little restaurant experience but dogged dedication to “making it work” his business was founded on great food with a home-cooking taste.

Erik learned his trade quickly. By 1978 he had opened three more Erik’s DeliCafés in Capitola, Aptos, and Santa Cruz. Today there are 33 Erik’s DeliCafés from Salinas to Redwood City. The company’s business design has evolved into a franchise model with ownership of many of the corporate stores being transferred to former employees and other more recent Erik’s DeliCafés being opened by new owner-franchisees. Regional advertising – featuring Erik’s Spokespickle and rapping shrimp – has become ubiquitous on television as well as in local conversation.

Erik’s generosity and business savvy has been welcomed by local nonprofit boards, advisory committees, and projects including service on the Dominican Hospital Board of Directors and its committees. Erik and his wife Judy are contributors and active supporters of an array of local institutions from Cabrillo College to the SPCA. An participant in United Way’s Smart Solutions to Homelessness, Erik continues to welcome workers with special needs into this business. For more than 40 years Erik has been a go-to participant in groups from public school programs to the Second Harvest Food Bank.

Erik has instilled upon all those who work in his business its formula for success – described as the “secret goo” – values of consistency, quality, service and integrity. Erik continues to bring the same “goo” to his presence and work in the Santa Cruz community.

    Woman of the Year: Martina O'Sullivan:  

Marina O’Sullivan has been both muscle and heart for social services in Santa Cruz County and the Monterey Bay since 1984. She has held some of the region’s most difficult jobs – a psychiatric social workers in the Behavioral Health Services Unit at Dominican Hospital and then its Director; the Executive Director of Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Monterey; and, finally, returning to Dominican Hospital, as its Director of Community Engagement.

A tireless worker, she has brought what was described by one co-workers as “no-nonsense compassion” to every posting. Raised under the cloud of racism in Louisiana during the civil rights movement and the poverty of inner-city Detroit, her family maintained a dedication to both their community and the Church. Martina completed undergraduate and graduate degrees at Wayne State University. Building on her strong ties to the church she first worked with women being released from prison, then with students in the Detroit Public Schools, before moving to Santa Cruz with her husband, Will, and their three daughters.

In her current role, Martina has been the connection between Dignity Health – Dominican Hospital and the many hundreds of public agencies, nonprofits, schools, and other health care providers that create the “safety-net” services in Santa Cruz County. She has served on a variety of Boards of Directors, committees, and project teams as diverse as the Boards of United Way (of which we was the Chair) and the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce.

Her respect, presence, and affection, given unsparingly to every person with whom she comes into contact, has made Martina ‘connective tissue’ that binds together local, state and national legislators; the economic community and its employers; the hundreds of agencies and service organizations addressing the community’s social, education, and health needs; and the residents of the County and the Monterey Bay region who need access to those services.

    Business of the Year: The Glass Jar-- Penny Ice Creamery, The Picnic Basket, and Assembly: 

The Glass Jar founders, Zachary Davis and Kendra Baker, began with a creative business model and a patient approach to implementing it. The notion of creating an interlocking group of businesses related to the use of locally grown and processed sustainable foods – a “farm to table” food chain – was initially launched as the Penny Ice Creamery in the worst of business times – 2008.

Kendra was at the time the Executive Pastry Chef at the two-Micheline-Star Manresa Restaurant in Los Gatos. Zach was directing operations and product development at a San Francisco tech startup. But both had strong ties to and a great love for Santa Cruz and, after many months of conversation and business planning, an SBA guaranteed loan from Lighthouse Bank, and the conversion of 913 Cedar Street into an ice cream shop, “The Penny” was opened. Their early launch was nationally recognized as a result of a ‘thank you’ YouTube video, produced by Zach on his iPhone. ‘The Penny’ has continued to prosper.

But their larger vision, modeled on one of Kendra’s former employers in Boston, was an integrated organization of local-foods businesses. When approached by Chris Ferrante about, about opening a second ice cream shop in the remodeled Beach Street Inn and Suites Inn’s retail space they sold her on the idea of the next phase of their vision. The Picnic Basket, serving local foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a ‘dinner’ and carry-out format was launched in 2011.

Next the Glass Jar added two new ice cream outlets, a kiosk on Pacific Avenue in 2011, and a new full-service shop in the Pleasure Point neighborhood in 2013. The most recent additions to the Glass Jar’s repertoire have been the full-service restaurant, Assembly, on Pacific Avenue and POPUP, a neighboring retail space hosting new food ideas and events. Assembly is the most immersive reflection of the Glass Jar’s tag line “Food + Community,” that has proven to be a gathering place for community as well as a restaurant serving rustic California cuisine that has been widely recognized throughout the Bay Area.

Kendra and Zach’s network of local suppliers insuring access to local and sustainable food, the Glass Jar’s integration of food service outlets that benefit from the efficiencies of scale and supply chain, and a dedication to engagement with customers as a community are at the cutting edge of business models.

     Organization of the Year: The Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau:

The Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau has been the advocate for farmers, farm-workers, and agri-business in Santa Cruz County since its founding in 1917. The Farm Bureau has been a catalyst, helping their members, local governments, and the Santa Cruz County community remain competitive in the continuing and often rapid evolution of the science, markets, and business processes of agriculture for nearly a century.

And the Farm Bureau and the farmers it represents have been particularly good at it. Geographically the second smallest county in California, Santa Cruz farms rank 22nd in total agricultural production of the 58 counties in the in the state. Agriculture continues to be the largest industry segment in the County’s economic base. Last year Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau was recognized by the State Farm Bureau as the County of the Year.

The Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau has a reputation as a national leader. They were the first Farm Bureau in the U.S. to… ?
  • Have organic growers as board members (1970s) ?
  • Provide AIDS education to farm workers (1980s) ?
  • Create an organization to help undocumented farm workers become legalized (1980s) ?
  • Create a program for community leaders to learn about agriculture (Focus Agriculture (1990s) ?
  • Involve in leadership roles – more women have served on the board and committees of the Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau than any other Farm Bureau in the nation.

Perhaps the Farm Bureau’s greatest success has been sustaining and developing the relationship between local governments and farmers and agribusiness. From land use to infrastructure development the farm bureau has been a dedicated and effective advocate for the policies necessary to insure continued economic opportunity and the optimal use of resources on farm and forest lands in Santa Cruz County.

    Entrepreneurs of the Year: Lloyd Tabb-- Looker: 

There may be two or three other tech entrepreneurs in Santa Cruz who have resumes as experience-rich as Lloyd Tabb’s. Looker, Inc. which he organized in the fall of 2011 and of which he is currently the chairman and Chief Technology Officer is the fourth business that he has founded. However, it would be difficult to find any entrepreneur that has been as dedicated as Lloyd to the stewardship of the talent of others.

Initially a database and languages architect at Borland International who rose to occupy a “corner office”, Lloyd left Borland to found Commerce Tools, where he wrote the first application server for the web. After Commerce Tools was acquired by Netscape in 1995, Lloyd became the Principal Engineer on Netscape Navigator Gold, led several releases of Communicator, and helped define the creation of prior to Netscape’s sale to AOL. Part of the founding team of LIveOps, decribed as “the first commercial crowd-sourced company”, he served at its CTO, designing its crowd-sourced ecosystem. Lloyd has also been a co-founder of Readyforce and a founder and advisor to Luminate.

Lloyd’s commitment to encouraging talent is a reflex that extends far beyond his own businesses. In part it is the result of uncanny skill in recognizing talent when he sees it. But it is driven by a natural generosity. He has given his time and experience-tested guidance to middle-school students, to the children of acquaintances, to his own young hires, and to experienced technologist in transition. He doesn’t just provided advice; he has created and engaged students in learning experiences, connected talented acquaintances – his informal mentees – with other businesses and introduced the best-and-brightest to each other.

Of course, that skill of recognizing talent and the facility to grow it and connect talented individuals together is also the style that has led to extraordinary success as an innovator and entrepreneur. These abilities have most recently grown Looker from a started up become a well-funded and growing enterprise with more than 80 employees and the first occupant of the top floor of the Rittenhouse Building.

    Lifetime Achievement: Neal Coonerty 

Neal Coonerty would, no doubt, groan at being described as a “city father.” More comfortable with the persona of the modest and bespectacled book shop owner that he also is, city “parenthood” was thrust upon him, largely by the Loma Prieta earthquake. To his credit he has been neither an unwilling steward of our collective well-being nor unprepared for the rigors of management in an often-contentious political environment.

Neal had built strong relationships before the earthquake – in the business community, with the progressive leadership of the City, and, especially, with his Bookshop customers. But the day that defined both the City’s resilience and Neal’s role as a city leader was a few weeks after the earthquake. He was finally given permission to enter his badly damaged Bookshop Santa Cruz premises for two days to remove its inventory and fixtures prior to its demolition. He reached out, asking for help with this monumental and hazardous task, not knowing what to expect. But on that drizzly Saturday morning more than 400 people showed up to save the Bookshop. It was a cathartic moment for downtown and the City. And, with it, Neal became a symbol of the will, collaboration, and wisdom that would cut across political creeds and propel the recovery of the downtown and of Santa Cruz.

A California native and Cal-Berkeley graduate Neal had learned the book store business in Cambridge and Boston MA. He and his wife Candy took over Bookshop Santa Cruz in 1973 when he was 27. He has been a life-long leader in that industry, including serving as President of the American Booksellers Association with 2,500 members nationwide from 2000 to 2002. He has been an ardent advocate for the bookstore business and, especially, for maintenance of free speech and public access through broad and equitable access by authors to publishing and distribution.

In 1990, a year after the earthquake, Neal was elected to the Santa Cruz City Council where he served as a council member for what were probably the four most eventful years in the history of local government. During that time the city administered millions of dollars in earthquake funds, services and support and adopted plans and initiatives to guide the city’s rehabilitation, particularly including the Downtown Recovery Plan. Elected Mayor by the Council in 1992, he presided over the reopening celebration of downtown.

Neal did not run for re-election in 1994 but immersed himself in Bookshop, the book business and family. His wife, Candy, died in 1999. Neal remarried Lucie Rideout Rossi in 2003.

Ready to turn the management of Bookshop Santa Cruz over to his daughter Casey, Neal ran and won election to the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors in June 2006 and took office in Jan 2007. Re-elected in June 2010, he will continue to represent the Santa Cruz County’s Third District (the City, Twin Lakes, and the north coast) until his retirement January 5, 2015 – when he will be replaced by his son Ryan who won election to the Third District seat in June.

Neal’s calm demeanor and political savvy have been instrumental in key decisions from earthquake reconstruction to the large-scale development of affordable housing and from the settlement agreement with UCSC resolving dozens of inter-institutional squabbles to the successful management of the County budget, decimated by the 2008 Great Recession. His presence – forthright, both willful and willing to compromise, and pragmatic – has blended economic realism with the community’s progressive values to guide Santa Cruz for two generations through both difficult times and great opportunities.