Bookshop Santa Cruz launches UC Santa Cruz Slug Shop

Store-within-a-store will be a headquarters for future town-gown partnerships

Santa Cruz community VIPs, including Sammy the Slug, turned out for the ribbon cutting and grand opening of the UC Santa Cruz Slug Shop in Bookshop Santa Cruz, in downtown Santa Cruz. (Photo by Lisa Nielsen.)
Neal Coonerty, former county supervisor and the original owner of Bookshop Santa Cruz, offers Sammy the Slug cookies to the crowd at Bookshop Santa Cruz's Slug Shop grand opening event. (Photo by Dan White)

Bookshop Santa Cruz was busy and full of life on Monday morning—and yet the atmosphere was remarkably “sluggish”—Banana Sluggish, to be more specific.

That morning, Bookshop had a ribbon-cutting ceremony and grand opening for its brand-new UC Santa Cruz Slug Shop, which now hosts a thoughtfully curated collection of UC Santa Cruz-themed clothing, keychains, books, reusable water bottles and beer glasses and Sammy the Slug memorabilia, and will also serve as headquarters for UC Santa Cruz/Bookshop Santa Cruz partnerships. The celebration included more than 30 well-wishers and many local VIPS, including Sammy the Slug.

Some high-profile events are already in the works, including a talk by bestselling writer Malcolm Gladwell on September 21 in Redwood City. UC Santa Cruz with Bookshop Santa Cruz is hosting the talk. (The event will soon be listed at

Bookshop Santa Cruz owner Casey Coonerty-Protti said that it was only a matter of time before two of Santa Cruz’s best-known and most influential institutions joined forces. After all, the bookstore and university have had a longstanding cordial and synergistic relationship. Even their birthdays fall close together: UC Santa Cruz opened its doors to students in 1965, while Bookshop has been around since 1966.

Aside from that, the two institutions share similar missions.

“Bookshop is dedicated to the idea of the written word and being a catalyst for intellectual and cultural life, and so is the university,” Coonerty-Protti said. “So many customers are alumni, and a lot of our staff are, too. There has always been a strong connection. We have the same shared values. Bookshop is Santa Cruz’s living room, and it just made sense for UC Santa Cruz to be represented here. And there is just limitless potential to cosponsor events.”

It took a couple of years to turn the dream of a Slug Shop into fruition, Coonerty-Protti said. To make way for this store-within-a-store, which occupies a large chunk of the front section of Bookshop, near the windows facing Pacific Avenue, the bookstore’s staff had to move the magazine department as well as some offices. The store also had to order merchandise and come up with a vision for the layout.

The ribbon-cutting VIP crew that showed up to Bookshop spoke to the nature of the town-gown partnership that made the Slug Shop possible. Among the ribbon cutters were Coonerty-Protti; her brother and third-district supervisor Ryan Coonerty, who is also a politics lecturer on campus; and their father Neal Coonerty, Bookshop’s original owner and a former third-district supervisor. Also in attendance were UC Santa Cruz mascot Sammy the Slug; Santa Cruz Mayor Martine Watkins (Oakes ‘02, legal studies); UC Santa Cruz Vice Chancellor for Business and Administrative Services Sarah Latham; and Chip, executive director of the Downtown Association.

Latham, looking around the store, said it was clear that “two years working and thinking over hot chocolate and coffee” had paid off. “It is such an honor to be able to partner with such a beloved business and a family that has done so much for Santa Cruz.”

Neal Coonerty added to the festivities by circulating throughout the Slug Shop, offering guests a plate of tasty Banana Slug cookies from the Buttery Bakery in Santa Cruz.

Coonerty-Protti had special thanks for UC Santa Cruz’s Bay Tree Bookstore; Bookshop staffers Sara McCleod, Nicole Galante, and Sheila Cremini; the Downtown Association; UC Santa Cruz Communications and Marketing; as well as Watkins and Ryan Coonerty, for helping to make the store a reality.