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Downtown Santa Cruz business owners look back on Loma Prieta earthquake 30 years later

Taking a stroll in Downtown Santa Cruz now, you might not be able to tell that 30 years earlier, a destructive earthquake rocked the community. But some business owners remember the infamous Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 well.

“It looked like a bombing run from a World War II picture-buildings were just totally devastated,” said Santa Cruz small business owner Joe Ferrara as he recounted the destruction the quake left behind. “It just didn’t seem real; looked like a movie set.”

The quake rocked his downtown comic book shop Atlantis Fantasyworld. The original shop, located on Pacific Avenue, was featured in the 1980s film, “The Lost Boys.” But this piece of history was destroyed in the quake.

He was forced to move out because the building was too unstable and no longer safe. He and more than 40 other businesses operated out of tents to keep running through the hardship.

“Some people were maxed out on their credit cards and when it came time to move out of the tents, there was no money for them to do that, and they went out of business,” Ferrara said.

But others made a comeback with the help of neighbors. The community support for local businesses after the tragedy was astounding to Ferrara and other owners.

Zoccoli’s Deli was right in the center of it all.

“The community spirit was there, people were definitely supporting downtown,” Patty Zoccoli said.

“The first Christmas, there were busloads of people who came to support the downtown to give us a Christmas season. People literally came from all over,” Ferrara said.

After leaving the tents, he moved into this shop on Cedar Street where they’ve been providing people with a fantasy world to enjoy for the past 27 years.

“I’ve always said I would never say the earthquake was a good thing but out of devastation came the phoenix that rose again when you look at what the downtown is now,” Ferrara told KION.

He said part of the funding used to construct the building where the shop now stands came from an earthquake relief fund.

KION 2019

Santa Cruz / Santa Cruz County / Top Stories

KION546 News Team

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