Time runs out for Ducky Waddle’s
Just over a year after a community campaign to save the store, the long and colorful history of Ducky Waddle’s Emporium will come to a close next month.
In an email to customers last week, shop owner Jerry Waddle said he will soon close his 20-year-old business, an eclectic mix of book store, curiosity shop, live music venue and art gallery. He plans to sell all of the merchandise and furnishings before the end of September.
Waddle, 75, of Oceanside, said his dream was to create a sort of salon where local poets, local bands and authors could meet and perform for the community. The shop, at 414 N. Coast Highway, was best known for the large rebar duck sculpture on its roof.
“I feel as though I succeeded to some extent, but in the long run the economics of running a small independent business have proved to be insufficient for a foreseeable future success,” he said in the email. “I have met and become friends with many amazing, intelligent and talented members of our community and have greeted visitors from all over the world and it has been a wonderful and rewarding experience.”
In the late 1990s, Ducky Waddle’s was a popular hangout for Leucadia’s liberal, funky arts community. Street artist Shepard Fairey, creator of the famous Obama “Hope” poster, once credited Waddle with hosting some of his first solo shows, and Waddle has also helped foster the now-international careers of local artists Mary Fleener, Scott Saw and Tim McCormick.
But the recession was devastating for business. Sales dropped by 80 percent from 2007 to 2010 and never recovered, Waddle said.
“The recession was terrible. My customers were losing their jobs, losing their homes,” he said. “The middle class took a big hit, and we did right along with it.”
To make ends meet, Waddle said he began selling off items from his private art collection, and he fell behind on store rent and personal bills. To help stave off closure last year, Waddle worked with longtime customer Kyle Koerber on an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. It raised $7,800, which helped the store make it through 2015, but Waddle said it was clear this year that the time had finally come to close the doors.
Fans of the store reacted to the news with sadness, including customer Susanne Van Cleave, who wrote on the shop’s Facebook page: “There is only one Ducky Waddle’s. And without it, the world — and especially Leucadia — will be a colder, sadder, less funky place.”
Waddle grew up in San Diego, where he began collecting antique art more than 50 years ago. He ran an antiques and collectibles shop in San Diego in the 1970s, then moved the business to L.A. in the 1980s, but the store was destroyed in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. In 1996, he reopened Ducky Waddle’s — “Ducky” is his nickname — in a tiny space in downtown Encinitas. Business was so brisk, he moved two years later to the current Leucadia location, which was twice as large.
Ducky Waddle’s offers an eclectic range of merchandise. There are shelves of rare books; stacks of vintage comic books, magazines, newspapers and art prints; locally produced greeting cards; novelty gifts; used CDs; posters; Mexican folk art; bead jewelry and buttons; and 1950s-style kitsch items.
Waddle said he’ll keep the doors open until everything’s gone, which he said should be “well into September.”
As a final bow to the shop’s artistic past, Waddle has planned one last open-mic poetry night featuring guest poet Alfredo Aguilar at 7 p.m. Sept. 14.
– Pam Kragen writes for The San Diego Union-Tribune