By Kevin Newhouse
I’m sad to report that Sushi on the Run will be closing its doors as of November 30, 2015. Chef Masa (Masayuki Watanabe) has decided to retire from the kitchen after a very successful career. However, he and his wife will remain residents of Aptos, which in my opinion is a good thing!
Chef Masa, who has been treating us to his tasty creations for close to 15 years at Sushi on the Run, started out in Tokyo, where he ran a small sushi bar. After coming to the United States, Chef Masa opened Masayuki’s sushi bar in Capitola Village in November 1987.
Masayuki’s quickly became a well-known spot for locals to get their sushi fix. In those days, sushi wasn’t as popular as it is today. In fact, Chef Masa may have been responsible for a lot of people’s first sushi experience. As you know, the sushi trend quickly spread and so did the popularity of Masayuki’s. When he announced they would be closing for business in September 1999, some folks were joking (or maybe not) about starting a support group to help deal with the loss!
The building that Sushi on the Run occupies has always struck me as kind of an odd building. It is a small structure facing a busy street with a cliff on the backside, and a small amount of parking out front. It feels like a place where you stop the car, run in, run out, and do it so quickly that you don’t even need to turn off the car’s engine. I think that is why they chose the name “Sushi on the Run,” even though there were a few tables for a dine-in option. The name is also a very fitting as it captures the intent of the building’s original use.
The building was originally constructed as a drive-in depot for Santa Cruz Dairy Farms. Although it was before my time, a lot of you may remember when milk and other dairy products were delivered right to your doorstep. Well, these drive-in depots were created as an alternate option that proved to be quite popular.
In May 1962, Santa Cruz Diary Farms opened the “cash and carry” milk depot in Aptos. Bud Blake was the manager and his wife Florence and daughter Jane helped out by waiting on customers. Part of the reason this business was so successful was due to the freshness of the product, convenience of “one-minute service”, and no end-of-month dairy bills like you had with the delivery service.
The guaranteed fresh quality of the milk was due to the direct producer to consumer service of the Santa Cruz Diary Farms. Their cows were free to pasture at their ranch at 601 Glenwood Drive in Scotts Valley. Within minutes of milking the cows, the milk would be rushed to the processing plant at 2201 Soquel drive. The milk would then be available to purchase at one of the five drive-in depots between Felton and Aptos. Talk about a local product from start to finish!!!
I have talked to several people around town who have wonderful memories of the Aptos drive-in diary. For many, it was a real treat for them to enjoy cookies and fresh milk after school. Others reminisced fondly of driving up in the back of the family car and have commented about how good these memories make them feel. One woman recalled her and a friend riding horses to the diary through the fields, which now make up the lower portion of Rancho Del Mar, and getting served without even getting off the saddle!
The closing of Sushi on the Run is bittersweet. On one hand, I am sad that we are losing a great Aptos eatery. On the other hand, retirement is a blessing and for Chef Masa, it is very well deserved. Thank you to Chef Masa, his family, and employees at Sushi on the Run, for sharing your talents with us for so many years. You will be missed.