Fran Grayson

Written by Liz Hodges

Photo credit: Jeffrey Correa

Is there anything that Steamer Lane Supply owner/operator/chef/farmer/welder/designer Fran Grayson hasn’t done? Although she doesn’t like to talk about herself, after about a minute on the phone with her I had to say, “ It’s no wonder you’re our Woman of the Week!”

Originally from New York, she came to the Santa Cruz area in 1994 to apprentice at the UCSC Farm and Garden, staying on as a teaching assistant for the next few years. After that, she left the area for a bit to work with her father, a demolition contractor in San Francisco.

It may come as a surprise to learn that Fran is a structural welder, and also that she can operate any type of heavy machinery. Oh, and that she was project manager for the giant mitt at Pac Bell Park.

When Fran came back to Santa Cruz, she worked at Avanti while gardening for Life Lab, becoming opening chef at the new Avanti. From there, she went on to start Branch Out Farm with Juan Cuevas, in conjunction with her food truck, The Truck Stop, which can still be found slinging tacos just outside Steamer Lane Supply every weekend.

The inspiration for Fran’s café/surf shop was twofold. Her food truck was a huge hit at contests. And, being an avid surfer, she was constantly hearing her aquatic companions lament the lack of a nearby eatery to satiate their hunger pains after hours in the water. She herself was tired of not having any food options around when she finished surfing. “I’d be scrounging around in my car for a piece of old Cliff bar or something,” she says.

Fran designed Steamer Lane Supply by herself, and did most of her own construction (which shouldn’t come as a surprise now), before opening in June. But that’s not all that went into the planning. She spent a lot of time talking to people about what they’d like to eat there. And she developed her relationship with the State Parks Department, who receives a percentage of her gross sales for park maintenance. She’s committed to using no plastic bottles, bags, or packaged foods and communicates closely with them on litter in the park.

All I have to say is, if you haven’t tried one of her giant burrito-sized quesadilla pockets filled with fresh ingredients and gooey cheese yet perfectly golden brown and crunchy on the outside, then run, not walk, down to West Cliff and treat yourself! Other popular items on the menu include poke bowls, doggie frittatas, Alta organic coffee, and locally made Vida Juice jun tonics.

Fran’s vision for Steamer Lane Supply was about more than the food though; it was also about providing a positive community space. People keep coming in with genuine, heartfelt thanks. “I’m just so happy about the support that I’ve gotten from the community.”

Things to be on the look-out for: more smoothies and juices, a Sunday arepa brunch, spring and summer movie nights, and maybe a skateboard contest. She also provides a discount for those wearing wetsuits and will keep gift cards on file—so you don’t even have to bring your wallet, just a big appetite.

Thank you to this week’s W.O.W. sponsor: Woofpack The Hiking Camp For Dogs and to our fabulous blogger: Liz Hodges of Verdant California

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