The salty aroma of roasting nuts wafts onto Lincoln Street in Santa Cruz on a warm June mid afternoon. The tempting smells and sights of freshly heated tequila pistachios draw curious locals into the glass storefront of Nut Kreations—Santa Cruz’s new gourmet nut store.
Behind the custom made U-shaped counter wait newlyweds Mina and Brody Feuerhaken, the business’ owners and managers. The couple opened their store in April, on the day before Easter, deep in the midst of planning their wedding. But now that their vows have been spoken the young local duo is ready to devote their lives to the nutty retail business.
“We were planning a wedding and a business simultaneously,” says Brody with an optimistic gaze through welcoming blue eyes. “But now the wedding is over, so it's game time.”
Nut Kreations is the only business of its kind within the local retail market, says Mina, whose family’s roots in the pistachio growing business trace back four generations, beginning in Iran. Her parents met through their ties to the industry, and her uncles and aunts on both sides of her family are also pistachio growers.
“Pistachio growing originated in Iran, and was brought to California in the 1950s," says Mina. Her family has been developing pistachio farms in the Central Valley for 15 years, and now she is ready to join the family business after studying business management at UC Santa Cruz with graduate work in fashion design.
The quaint downtown store taps into an untouched market, says Mina. She says that there is no other store quite like Nut Kreations, and hopes that with a low profit margin, and thus lower prices, her business can succeed despite the currently unfortunate national economic state.
“There was so much risk, and we had so many people criticize us throughout the process," she says. "From city employees when we were getting our permits to when we were getting construction materials. But we would never know if we didn’t do it. We really believe in it.”
The business sells over 120 different verities of nuts, including customer favorites tequila roasted pistachios, cocoanut toffee peanuts, curry cashews, and butter toffee almonds. They also sell dried kiwis and other fruits, dark chocolate covered banana chips, and yogurt covered apricots—a treat that is exclusive to Nut Kreations. Lining the walls of the store are wooden shelves that hold nut books, nut crackers, and nut containers.
About 20 percent of the nuts are roasted in house. The smell of roasting nuts draws customers into the store, where they are greeted with calming music and a professional atmosphere.
They chose to set up their first store in Santa Cruz because she has lived here 12 years and he was born and raised here.
Mina hopes that Santa Cruz’s diverse population and high concentration of vegans, vegetarians, and the steady increase in the popularity of a Paleo diet—that is the diet of the first humans—will shop at the store.
“They (Vegans) get most of their proteins and fibers from nuts,” says Mina, “It’s an essential part of their diet.”
However, Mina doesn’t rely on just people who have alternative diets to support her business. She says that her business targets a large demographic of people that ranges from baby boomers to middle school teenagers.
“Everyone likes nuts,” she laughs.
From the books, to retail, to maintenance, Nut Kreations is completely run by the Fauerhaken’s, their only boss says Mina is the customer and the community.
“We know how to take care of the customer,” she says, “It's in our blood. We want to support our local community.”