ENCINITAS — A prominent Leucadia bookstore and art gallery has turned to the public to help keep its recession-racked business afloat, and the public has responded.
Supporters of Ducky Waddles, owned by local art dealer Jerry Waddle, earlier this month launched an ambitious “crowd-funding” campaign using the website Indiegogo with the goal of raising $20,000 in a month. People who donate to the drive get rewards in exchange for their donation, such as stickers, shirts, tote bags and store discounts.
With just days left before the fundraiser’s end, the drive has raised $4,500, but supporters say that if they can raise $7,000 it would be enough to help the store, which has become a fixture along Coast Highway 101, to stay open for at least another year.
“If the campaign were to be unsuccessful, I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it would doom the store, but it would mean that the future would be uncertain,” said Kyle Koerber, a longtime supporter of Ducky Waddles who, along with his girlfriend, is spearheading the fundraising drive.
“You are not going to find another store that is essentially one man’s life philosophy,” Koerber said. “Jerry is the store. This is a store that is basically what he loves and his aesthetic, and that is something that drew me to the place and why I am so passionate about helping the store.”
Waddle, 75, who opened Ducky Waddles in 1996, waxes poetic about the bookstore that he has built into a unique and iconic local brand over the past 19 years.
“Basically, the store is my life, it is a very personal store and I do it for me,” Waddle said. “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.
Fairey’s camp has thrown its weight behind the Ducky Waddle’s fundraising campaign, asking people to donate to the cause on Fairey’s Facebook Page.
“It made the store sort of the cultural center in the middle of Encinitas in Leucadia,” Koerber said. “And it was based off the ideas that incorporated Leucadia: a beach town, open mindedness and the kindness he would treat every customer. It was Leucadia.”
The Great Recession almost brought Waddle’s business to a halt.
He first noticed the hit in January 2008, when he looked over the previous month’s books and saw a 30 percent year-over-year drop in business.
By the recession’s height in 2010, business would drop 80 percent, and Waddle would sell off his stocks and other assets and let go of his part-time employees to raise enough money to keep the store afloat.
“People stopped spending money, their disposable income went away, people were losing their jobs,” Waddle said. “When I hit bottom, for the next three to four years, I had to bump along the bottom, hanging on, waiting for a recovery and hoping that business would come back, and that was very expensive for me.
“By late 2014, business started to come back again, much slower than it went away I’ll admit, but it was getting better,” Waddle said. “But it was almost too little too late.”
One of the residual effects of the recession was that in addition to losing business, Waddle couldn’t actively buy pieces that he would then re-sell in the store. His Fairey collection quickly evaporated, further hurting his business.
The crowd-funding campaign will allow Waddle to restock his walls and shelves, bringing back some of the vibrancy the store lost as a result of the economic downturn.
In addition to the fundraising, Waddle is also actively trying to sell one of his prized Fairey prints, one known commonly as “Marilyn Warhol,” which is a combination of Andy Warhol’s famous Marilyn Monroe picture superimposed with wrestler Andre The Giant’s face.
Waddle, who bought it before Fairey’s rise to fame, is hoping to cash in big, with an asking price of $7,000.
“It has been a long time coming, and he came to the conclusion that now would be the time to cash in on the investment he made when he bought the print, if it helps to keep the store open,” Koerber said.
The crowd-funding drive ends June 8. People interested in donating to the campaign can visit the website, igg.me/at/duckygogo