By Valerie Luu
Campus News Reporter
Starving artists won’t have to go hungry any longer.
It was their diet of Gardetto’s snacks and Twix candy bars during college that motivated Paul Heiman and Tim Black, both recent UCSC graduates, to open the Back Perch, a new café located in the Academic Resources Center (ARC).
Both music majors, Heiman and Black said the limited food options around the Arts and Music Center resulted in an unhealthy diet of vending-machine food.
“I couldn’t ever tell you how many Twix bars I went through in college,” Black said.
Their memories of living off junk food in the Music Center made the two friends wonder if there could be healthier options for art students.
Their solution: start a business.
“We knew what it was like to be starving artists,” Black said. “We wanted to help all the art and music students.”
Heiman came up with the idea of the Back Perch, which allowed him to use his experience as a barista at Caffé Pergolesi, a popular café in downtown Santa Cruz owned by his father, Karl Heiman. Soon after, Heiman spent the summer developing a business plan and investing his savings of about $6,000 to purchase a coffee cart.
However, the hardest part of getting the café off the ground was settling a contract with the administration. Heiman said he had to get permission to operate his business from 10 different people, a bureaucratic process that took more than six months.
“It came down to one signature, which took two weeks to get,” Heiman said.
With all the signatures collected, the café was ready to open at the beginning of spring quarter — ironically, in a space next to the vending machines.
Drawing on their experiences as hungry music majors, the duo wanted to offer affordable food with sustenance. Now, the pair sell sandwiches and pastries from local establishments like Beckman’s Bakery and the Bagelry for less than $5 and also provide vegan and vegetarian options.
As for the refreshments, Black describes the café as a “piece of Pergolesi,” offering the same organic and fair-trade coffee and teas as the downtown café. The Back Perch is also planning to adapt Caffé Pergolesi’s tradition of supporting artists by selling coffee and having shows on the patio outside the ARC.
“Like [Pergolesi], we have art and music,” Heiman said. “The population foundation is the artists and we want to support those people.”
Amy Beal, an associate professor of music history, used to walk to the Oakes Café or the Bay Tree Bookstore from the Music Center. Now she comes to the Back Perch twice a day, for coffee in the morning and tea in the afternoon.
“This is the most beautiful spot on campus, a great place to have coffee,” Beal said. “I tell all my students to come here before class.”
_The Back Perch can be found on the first floor of the ARC, which is located between McHenry Library and the Music Center. Operating hours are from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday._