March 2021

Painting the Town Purple


Terry Ballantyne Brezsny, left, and her buddy Niki Nelson have been hitting the streets giving out purple light bulbs.

If the profusion of purple porch lights around the county has made you smile, you have an inspiration from Terry Ballantyne Brezsny to thank.
The current realtor—and Jill of all trades around town—made a big house sale and wanted to do something to better things around her. How about painting the town purple?

“During the election I was so frustrated with all the negativity,” says the vivacious 69-year-old. “Everybody was sliced and diced into one label or another and the identity politics was overwhelming. “

She wanted to erase the red and blue factions, combine them and make the county purple, the color that forms when you mix red and blue.

“I said what are the common values everyone needs?”

And, while at the Rio Flats coffee shop, the words popped in her head. Peace, Unity, Respect, Progress, Lawful Liberty and Education—which made up the acronym PURPLE.

She didn’t go with the standard L for Love. “I thought it was too ‘airy fairy.’ But the other things are what Americans cherish.”
She took out an ad in local papers, including this magazine, and quickly distributed 900 bulbs and she and her friend Nicki Nelson went to every place residents texted her. Her phone lit up.

“I was waiting for haters,” she said. “There’s always a hater. But not one person said anything negative. No one asked my political ideology. I felt I had to do something. My fantasy is it keeps spreading all over.”

You can see a lot of the bulbs on Branciforte, where she started going door to door handing them out. A lot have popped up in Seacliff and on Stanford Avenue in Santa Cruz.

Brezsny is no stranger to following through on new ideas. Raised in Orange County, she settled in Santa Cruz because of its perfect balance of trees and ocean. When she arrived, she worked selling cars at Bergstrom Motors, which wasn’t her favorite job.
But everyday she saw food trucks pull up and all the workers line up for what she thought was “horrible, horrible” food. A foodie herself—by way of running a flower shop in LA and trading bouquets for quality food at restaurants– she came up with the idea of starting a gourmet food truck, This was in the 90s before these kind of trucks became a trend.

As an experiment, she made a bunch of lunches, things like barbecued chicken with gouda and spinach, and she pulled up to the Founders Title company on 41st Ave. She thought they might laugh at the truck called “Brown Bag Lunches.”
Instead, they bought out her whole inventory and asked when she would come back. Fast forward and her small business became a company with 11 sales people and a commercial kitchen serving lunches from King City to Santa Cruz.
After selling that company, she went into real estate, something both of her parents did and she’s loved it for 21 years.

“My father told me you meet the most wonderful people and see the most beautiful properties,” she said. “He was right. I’m never bored and it’s always a new day.”

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