ENCINITAS — Ducky Waddle’s, the popular and eclectic Leucadia bookstore and gift shop, is closing its doors after 20 years.
In recent weeks, a “going out of business” sign has signaled the end of an era, a little over a year after a fundraising campaign yielded $7,000 to help keep the store open.
In the end, the store’s business, which was racked by the recession and the changing complexion of Leucadia, never regained its footing, said storeowner Jerry Waddle.
“There just weren’t enough people coming in to pay the rent,” said Waddle, 76. “And if you don’t pay the rent, you can’t stay.”
Waddle opened Ducky Waddle’s in 1996 and built it into a unique and iconic local brand, best known for the large duck perched atop the peach stucco building.
“Basically, the store is my life, it is a very personal store and I do it for me,” Waddle said in 2015. “If anyone else benefits, I see it as a bonus. Apparently, I have built a group of people who seem to derive great benefit from it, and I am proud of that.
“I really enjoy what I do…I don’t have to get up at 6 a.m. and brave bumper-to-bumper traffic to go to a job that I hate, and that is great,” he said.
Waddle quickly made the venue into something more than a bookstore. It has doubled as an art gallery, an under-21 music venue, an open-mic spot and a solo gallery space for up-and-coming artists, some of whom have gone on to become stars in the modern pop art era.
One of Waddle’s claims to fame was that he was one of the few stores that sold original prints from San Diego artist Shepard Fairey, who rose to prominence during the 2008 presidential campaign when he created the iconic Barack Obama “Hope” poster that became synonymous with Obama’s historic campaign.
But the business struggled after the recession hit and sapped many families of their disposable income to purchase books, vinyl records, poster art, postcards and other knickknacks the store carried.
But Waddle said the economy wasn’t the only reason for his business’ struggles. Leucadia, still known for its eclectic, surfer-cool image, has seen that image get chipped away with the closure of some of its venerable stores.
Additionally, the rise of online-based businesses such as Amazon and eBay also hurt stores like Ducky Waddle’s, Waddle said.
“It was really a combination of things,” Waddle said.
Friends of Waddle launched a “crowd-funding” campaign with the ambitious goal to raise enough money to keep Waddles open. They raised $7,000, which the fundraiser organizers said would be enough to keep Waddle in business for a year.
Thirteen months later, Waddle said the doors must close sometime later this month. But he said he doesn’t want the story to be a dirge.
“I don’t want this to be a eulogy,” Waddle said. “I want to celebrate the good times that we have had here.
“My biggest reward has been the wonderful people that have come through here, whether it were to buy a book, get a postcard, intelligent people who read books, many of whom became friends to this day,” Waddle said.
Mary Stapleton, a longtime patron, perused through the collection of vinyl records and items like she had done many times in the past.
“I liked to get weirdo gifts for people,” Stapleton said.
Stapleton said Ducky Waddle’s closure was a “sign of the times.”
“It’s upsetting because Leucadia is disappearing,” Stapleton said. “There are a lot of hair studios and yoga studios, but no Ducky Waddle’s.”