Felton Mercantile
Chermé Wurtz, the founder and owner of Felton Mercantile, holds her daughter June while next to her horse Cheyenne. Her downtown shop, which showcases local artists, is facing eviction for a new tenant. (Drew Penner/Press Banner)

Hundreds more people signed their names this week to a petition to save a woman-owned storefront in downtown Felton that showcases the wares of more than 50 local artists. After surviving through the most difficult pandemic days, and during a wildfire that destroyed hundreds of homes in the area, Felton Mercantile is now facing eviction.

“Just two weeks ago today, my landlord came in in the middle of the business day and let me know I needed to leave in 60 days,” said founder and owner Chermé Wurtz on Feb. 9, while caring for her horse Cheyenne with her daughter June by her side. “When I asked why, he said because somebody with more money wants this space. When I asked what kind of business they were going to do, he didn’t want to elaborate more than that.”

Wurtz, 48, who grew up on the Westside of Santa Cruz, first secured the space at the end of 2019 and opened on Jan. 22, 2020.

“When I first went into the building I was like, ‘Wow, this is really big,’” she recalled. “I thought I could embrace the local makers community and give them a hub.”

When the novel coronavirus showed up, she had barely gotten going.

“I just started reaching out to various businesses to make hand sanitizer; then I reached out to a few of the makers who did face masks,” she said. “I had enough products in the store that were considered essential—soaps, and shampoos and cleaners that allowed me to be open. Not that people were coming in.”

But over the months, locals did begin to catch on to what she was up to.

And who wouldn’t fall in love with her shop cats Johnny and Sid?

“They’re very social,” she said. “They occasionally get out and everyone in the community just stops and looks for them.”

She began developing relationships with all sorts of different creators and holding pop-up events.

“Now looking back at the last four years, the time during Covid was probably the most supportive,” she said. “That Christmas was amazing. I had no idea that people would be so generous.”

The atmospheric rivers of 2021 and 2022 physically kept some people from being able to visit the shop on some days. She said the people moving to the San Lorenzo Valley from Silicon Valley, in the wake of the fires, also seem more interested in purchasing things from Amazon than paying extra for handcrafted items at local boutiques.

Felton Mercantile
Located along Highway 9, Felton Mercantile sells wares from more than 50 artisans. (Drew Penner/Press Banner)

But, Wurtz said she’s even enjoyed the trying times.

“I feel like a store in a small community like this—it becomes more like a labor of love that fills you more as a person than your bank account,” she said. “You just start feeling like a staple in the community, and it just feels really good.”

Wurtz said she was concerned that the landlord might be kicking her out because of the pagan-themed events she’s been hosting at the shop.

Through his son, the landlord declined to comment for this story.

Wurtz asked them directly if those “immersive” evenings were part of the reason for her getting the boot, and they told her that didn’t have anything to do with it.

She admits she’s struggled at times to make rent payments, but said she always makes arrangements to catch-up quickly. And, because she doesn’t currently have a long-term lease in place, she knows she doesn’t have much legal recourse.

Local author Kellie “K.M.” Rice, who writes the “Afterworld” series and even collaborated on an authorized behind-the-scenes hardcover about “Lord of the Rings” called “Middle-earth: From Script to Screen,” said it’s been amazing to have a place to interact with readers and make friends.

“It was really beautiful to know that as creative people we had a space where we were welcomed and celebrated,” she said. “This shop served our community—and supported our community—in ways that will be impossible to replace.”

Rice launched the “Protect the Felton Mercantile and Support Local Artists” petition Feb. 10 on change.org. As of noon Tuesday, it had already zoomed past 400 signatures.

Kristin Praly, owner of Horse Sense Education and Advocacy, was one of the signers.

“Every time I’ve come into the Felton Mercantile there has always been warm and loving people talking about community, shopping for local healing, tinctures, teas, soaps and one-of-a-kind handmade items. I see people trying on beautiful jewelry, unique clothing items and feeling the beautiful energy the store represents,” she said. “It’s one thing to say a store is closing because it’s time. It’s quite another to have a store close when people find a place to thrive and it’s working. The store is not ready to close. The owner would like to renew the lease. Please, please help support not only this business person, but the 50-plus artists that are hosted by her shop.”

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Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected].


  1. Living in Felton for many years, we have seen businesses come and go, many of them with sadness. This one is not the case. From personal experience, the store has very little to offer, and the owner was always rude and ignored customers for some greater purpose (chatting with someone, definitely not a customer, or disappearing for an hour leaving the store open and no sign on the door). Overall the place is kind of shady and gives a bad vibe. I am glad for the possibility to have another business there that hopefully will serve community better.

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