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A downtown in transition
July 07, 2008, 12:00 AM By Heather Murtagh

Alex Shamis/Daily Journal Christie Perego, owner and baker for Vanilla Moon Bakery in San Carlos, replenishes the display case.


Moms push strollers, friends catch up outside a coffee shop and teens look for summer entertainment on a lazy Laurel Street.

It’s not always the same old, same old in San Carlos. There are wine bars, ice cream and other activities in which to participate.

There is a downtown transformation including a new business expansion particularly at the southern end of its main street. Coming to the area are tasty treats and a place for adults to unwind.

A couple years ago, the Economic Development Advisory Commission divided the city into five regions to discover what the public wanted to see in the different areas. Things to do after dinner were a main request for downtown, said Brian Moura, assistant city manager for the city of San Carlos.

"[The] main thing people wanted was more diversity in terms of different types things to do after dinner,” he said. "You go to dinner but then what? What do you do afterwards? You go to a wine bar afterwards. Somebody else said brewpub.”

New businesses and construction are bringing a few of those requests to reality.

Earlier this year, the street gained a new resident with Refuge, a wine pub — that’s right pub — offering a selection of French wines — with one sparkling white from Italy – a number of premium beers and pastrami. The opening marked a big change for the 900 block of Laurel Street which has less foot traffic and, previously, no places to eat. Now there’s an open-air family-friendly bar with bright colors and a mellow feel.

It’s the first of two planned wine bars in the area. Owners of Spasso are expanding their ownership on the street with a wine bar practically across the street called Cask – referring to a wine barrel.

With wine bars coming along nicely, Moura said the city is still searching for a brewpub.

Interesting, Christi Perego originally thought she’d open a wine bar. Earlier this month, however, she opened the doors of Vanilla Moon Bakery — a cupcakery with coffee.

The San Carlos native was working as a pastry chef when she made cupcakes and gave friends the leftovers. Orders began rolling in shortly after creating a situation where Perego was catering the orders out of her kitchen. So she decided to make it a bit bigger.

Laurel happened to offer an affordable location for Perego to make that happen. The little shop currently specializes in a variety of cupcakes. There will be a staple menu of treats with seasonal snacks making appearances as well. Perego plans to expand to include various pastries and, one day, sandwiches. They will also deliver cupcakes and milk for birthdays.

"I hope we have a different and changing menu so people want to come back as often,” she said.

Frosting isn’t the only new treat in town. Colder concoctions are also around the corner. A yogurt shop called Red Mango has plans to move in on the same block as Vanilla Moon. It’s currently in the planning review stage, said Moura.

Next to the yet-to-be-opened Cask is Cowabunga Creamery – an old-fashioned ice cream shop with a surfer theme opened by local Bill Cotter.

Cotter offered to purchase the old Scoops location in December after working in Silicon Valley in 12 years. In March the deal was done and Cotter began making the place his own.

"It will be great for kids to have a place to go after school,” he said.

Cotter, a surfer himself, used the inspiration take over for the theme of the new ice cream shop. Cowabunga also fit another one of Cotter’s goal — it has the word cow in it.

The new shop will offer 24 flavors from Marianne’s Ice Cream in Santa Cruz. Creating the list of flavors made Cotter, the father of three, a popular guy with local kids helping offer their preferences.

Once open, the shop will have a surfboard a few feet off the ground with little stools at which children can eat There will be a large area allowing local teams to get together after practice or a game. Walls will be adorned with surfboards and a television with wave activities showing. Cotter will also solicit locals to submit photos that can be put displayed on the screen as well.

Anyone wanting to take a treat home can stop by to get cow pies, better known as homemade ice cream pies or special sundae kits.

Plan on riding the ice cream wave later this summer.


Heather Murtagh can be reached by e-mail: heather@smdailyjournal.com or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.


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