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Sacred Grove owner Birch helps a customer at his Soquel Avenue shop. Photo by Chip Scheuer.

Sacred Grove owner Birch helps a customer at his Soquel Avenue shop. Photo by Chip Scheuer.

On any given day, downtown Santa Cruz bustles with buskers, magicians, and even “energy readers” who will tell your fortune for spare change. The retail establishments include multiple New Age shops, the Serpent’s Kiss witchcraft supply shop and, until recently, the Happy High Herb Shop—an establishment selling legal high-inducing herbs such as salvia leaf.

When the Happy High Herb Shop’s property at 227 Cathcart St. became available recently, Birch (born Michael Correll), the owner of Soquel Avenue witchcraft supply store Sacred Grove, decided to apply in hopes of gaining more foot traffic into his store with a downtown location. But according to Birch, the landlord of the Cathcart property, Robert Mariolo, came to visit the Sacred Grove shop and decided not to give them a chance to apply for the downtown property.

“He looked around the shop for a few seconds and said, ‘This is a little too far out for me, you have strange merchandise. Lets end this here,’” says Birch.

Believing the shop is being discriminated against on religious grounds, Birch is now contacting lawyers to pursue a suit against Mariolo, who did not respond to our requests for comment.

Birch says he contacted the ACLU, who weren’t sure how to help him. The issue has stumped city officials, as well.

“They’re a retail shop. It’s not a church. I have no idea whether to say whether their suit would have merit,” says the city’s Economic Development Coordinator Peter Koht.

While he shops for attorneys and explores options, Birch says he is refraining from using magical means to exact revenge.

“We’re trying to keep it above board. We don’t go out and hex people,” says Birch. “Calling on justice is always allowed, and we’re not ruling that out. But right now we’re calling on justice through the regular, legal means.”

 

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  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/santa_cruz_occult_store_move_rejected.html Hipcowboy420

    Hope he sues his pants off!

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/2013/06/18/santa_cruz_occult_store_move_rejected Hipcowboy420

    Hope he sues his pants off!

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/santa_cruz_occult_store_move_rejected.html Jadetatsu – Katherine

    Robert Mariolo is obviously narrow minded when it comes to new age stores. 

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/2013/06/18/santa_cruz_occult_store_move_rejected Jadetatsu – Katherine

    Robert Mariolo is obviously narrow minded when it comes to new age stores. 

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/santa_cruz_occult_store_move_rejected.html Starlight

    And not a word about what this “far-out” merchandise might be that seems to compare so negatively to what was just shy of a head shop, but legal?  The reporting leaves something to be desired here…

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/2013/06/18/santa_cruz_occult_store_move_rejected Starlight

    And not a word about what this “far-out” merchandise might be that seems to compare so negatively to what was just shy of a head shop, but legal?  The reporting leaves something to be desired here…

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/santa_cruz_occult_store_move_rejected.html Sam

    Might not be a church, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the right to do so. He sells merchandise used for religious practices, it’s religious. Doesn’t matter if it’s ‘too far out.’

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/2013/06/18/santa_cruz_occult_store_move_rejected Sam

    Might not be a church, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the right to do so. He sells merchandise used for religious practices, it’s religious. Doesn’t matter if it’s ‘too far out.’

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/santa_cruz_occult_store_move_rejected.html DEBORAH K BEVANS

    This is a outrage to all American citizens.This man is a tax paying citizen.He also is respected and well liked among his community and a solid family man…I hope he does decide to sue and should most certainly win…)0(***

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/2013/06/18/santa_cruz_occult_store_move_rejected DEBORAH K BEVANS

    This is a outrage to all American citizens.This man is a tax paying citizen.He also is respected and well liked among his community and a solid family man…I hope he does decide to sue and should most certainly win…)0(***

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/santa_cruz_occult_store_move_rejected.html Marick

    Go Birch!

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/2013/06/18/santa_cruz_occult_store_move_rejected Marick

    Go Birch!

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/santa_cruz_occult_store_move_rejected.html Morgan

    I would advise Mr. Birch to also check the landlord-tenant laws in that state.  I believe it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, creed, religion, etc.

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/2013/06/18/santa_cruz_occult_store_move_rejected Morgan

    I would advise Mr. Birch to also check the landlord-tenant laws in that state.  I believe it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, creed, religion, etc.

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/santa_cruz_occult_store_move_rejected.html Anna M.

    The landlord’s okay with a “Happy High Herb” shop but not occult supplies? … o-kaaaaay….

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/2013/06/18/santa_cruz_occult_store_move_rejected Anna M.

    The landlord’s okay with a “Happy High Herb” shop but not occult supplies? … o-kaaaaay….

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/santa_cruz_occult_store_move_rejected.html Matthew Thomas

    A landlord or land owner has the right to rent to or refuse to rent to anyone they wish. If some municipal authority were to say the shop could or couldnt go somewhere or operate at all, then that would be grounds for discrimination.
    If the shop owner wants that property. then he can offer to buy it. Otherwise the landlord is within his rights. I applaud him for even going to see the mans shop. at least he made the effort to physically see for himself, others would just make an assumption.

    and the last thing that was in that space was a place selling legal plants to get high? im sure the landlord was simply doing research to ensure that he didnt rent againt o anyone outside his personal comfort level. Which is is legal right as the property owner to do. So whats the big deal here?

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/2013/06/18/santa_cruz_occult_store_move_rejected Matthew Thomas

    A landlord or land owner has the right to rent to or refuse to rent to anyone they wish. If some municipal authority were to say the shop could or couldnt go somewhere or operate at all, then that would be grounds for discrimination.
    If the shop owner wants that property. then he can offer to buy it. Otherwise the landlord is within his rights. I applaud him for even going to see the mans shop. at least he made the effort to physically see for himself, others would just make an assumption.

    and the last thing that was in that space was a place selling legal plants to get high? im sure the landlord was simply doing research to ensure that he didnt rent againt o anyone outside his personal comfort level. Which is is legal right as the property owner to do. So whats the big deal here?