If there is one thing Santa Cruz locals can agree on, besides how lucky they are to live here, it's that they can't really actually afford to live here.
That doesn't mean they won't spend two bucks on a cleverly-made sticker, though.
Just over a year ago, Zachary Frandeen, 34, was working the night shift at the Comfort Inn and taking Graphic Design classes at Cabrillo College when he designed a sticker that plays on the California license plate: He replaced the red cursive letters that usually read California with Cantaffordit, and where the numbers go, "SANTA CRUZ local."
"I decided that I wanted to create something that represents how I feel about Santa Cruz. I had some ideas, but none that jumped out at me," said Frandeen.
While taking a smoke break at the Comfort Inn one night, Frandeen got to talking to another starving local artist like himself.
"The man was in his 70's and said being broke is the way of the artist. Then he said that back in the 50's if you got pulled over by the police they would have to lean down to read the small numbers on your registration tag, so right below the numbers he wrote in small print with a fine paint brush "can't afford it,"' said Frandeen.
The idea was that the officer would hopefully get a chuckle and not write him a ticket for not having registration.
"Well after we were done chatting he went to his room and I was standing in the parking lot staring at all the licence plates and it hit me! That's how I feel about Santa Cruz! I ran in and sketched it out on paper. Then the sticker was created a week later," said Frandeen.
And right off the bat, the locals loved them.
"I think the number one response is laughter, followed by the words "I can relate,"' Frandeen said.
He began selling in six local stores—Dj's Mini Mart (where Frandeen worked after the Comfort Inn, and often didn't reveal that he was the creator of the sticker until someone added it to their purchase), Street Light Records, Deek's market, Earnies Liquors, Bills Wheels Skateshop and U Save Liquors. Four months ago he added five more county stores to the list, and produced stickers for Watsonville, Felton, Capitola, and several other towns in the county.
On July 3 of this year, Frandeen had a breakthrough success: the new Walgreens on Front Street, downtown, started selling his stickers.
To date, Frandeen has sold 2,500 stickers. And since the "can't afford this lifestyle but wouldn't trade it for the world" resonates in California as deep as the San Andreas Fault, he's not about to stop there.
"I hope to cover California with the CantAffordIt brand name. I think they would do really well in L.A. Right now I am just focused on this 100%," said Frandeen.
Frandeen hopes to create a T-shirt line but needs $1,000 before he can do this, and although he's sold 2,500 stickers so far, he's not exactly cashing in yet: each sticker he sells for a dollar costs 55 cents to print, and he had to sink $760 into a Universal Price Code in order to get them into Walgreens.
"So I break even," said Frandeen.
Frandeen was born in Watsonville and would catch the bus to hang out in Santa Cruz with his twin brother whenever they got the chance. In 1992, he moved to Santa Cruz with his dad. He loves living here, and if he had to choose one thing he loves most, it would be appreciation of the arts.
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