I want to wish Steve Volk a very happy 50th birthday.

When I first moved to the Santa Cruz area back in 1996 to attend UCSC, I took the bus to get to school. It drove right passed this groovy looking coffee shop that sat right on the corner of Soquel and Porter. The bus, rather conveniently, stopped just out front on its way to and from the university.

I hardly knew a soul when I arrived in Santa Cruz. And I loved coffee. So I dropped in to check out the coffee joint and maybe meet somebody. The Ugly Mug was the first coffeehouse I went to (other than on campus)… and Steve had just opened it. A charming sign hung outside the door, “Est. 1996.”  Our paths crossed at a bus stop. We were both just starting out… 1996 was a significant year for us both. I moved to a new area to finish my art degree and start a new life apart from Southern California, and Steve opened The Ugly Mug… The place was friendly, non-pretentious, welcoming, homey, all-inclusive, and fun to be in. They served coffee in ugly old mugs that were undoubtedly purchased at Goodwill or a yard sale, the staff was fun to watch as they made espresso and gathered food for customers …and there was always cool art on the walls. When I got to know Steve, some of my art hung on the walls. Later I would do up the Ugly’s menu board (which still hangs, as far as I know)… Steve even bought a painting that I was showing. I also donated a large watercolor work to the cafe…. a scene of Ugly muggers drinking joe on a blue background.

21 years later, this year is significant, too… I moved from California to Oregon, and Steve turns 50 (today… a significant number). Sometimes our circles have a funny way of coming back around at significant times. Our circle has done just that.

If you’re reading this and you live in the Monterey Bay area… drop by The Ugly Mug… have some joe and tell them Bridgett sent ya (point to the menu board).