Ducky Waddle’s, a Leucadia landmark, turns to crowdfunding

Like other independent bookstores across the nation, Ducky Waddle’s Emporium is riding the crowdfunding wave.

The Leucadia staple has a treasure trove of rare art, poetry, collectibles and books — customers may find out-of-print John Steinbeck or Ernest Hemingway novels, for instance. But years of tough economic times have depleted its inventory.

Bills also stacked up.

A crowdfunding campaign through the website Indiegogo.com, however, seeks to raise $20,000. That would go toward new merchandise and books, along with relaunching the Ducky Waddle’s website.

“When the recession severely affected my business, it eliminated the inflow of capital that I used to replenish my stock,” said owner Jerry Waddle last week in his store, which is teeming with rarities he handpicked. “I don’t have the money for new books and in-demand gifts that people come into the store for.”

Crowdfunding is a way for the public to finance creative projects, inventions and businesses through small donations. It’s an alternative to private investors or banks putting up the money.

Waddle said the economy is finally getting better and foot traffic in the store is picking up, so now is the time to grow the store’s inventory.

“The Indiegogo campaign, if it’s successful, will provide me with the capital to restore Ducky Waddle’s to its previous glory,” Waddle said.

He was reluctant when a loyal customer initially floated the crowdfunding idea. Waddle didn’t want to ask the public for help and he doubted many people would donate. But the more he talked to customers, the more he realized people want Ducky Waddle’s to keep its doors open.

“They feel it’s an institution,” Waddle said. He added that he’s humbled that so many have given to the cause.

As of May 27, 64 people have donated to the campaign, raising $3,508. The deadline to donate is June 8.

Another reason Waddle opted for crowdfunding: He saw that other independent bookstores had successfully gone that route.

For instance, Spellbound Children’s Bookshop in North Carolina collected more than $5,000 from web donors so it wouldn’t have to move to a new location. And a bookstore in San Francisco raised $60,000 via Indiegogo after facing a steep rent increase.

“Independent bookstores have taken a heavy hit with the recession and with competition from Amazon and all the online book retailers,” Waddle said.

Kyle Koerber, a customer who spearheaded the Indiegogo campaign, said that crowdfunding taps into locals’ passion for the store.

“Even if they don’t always shop at Ducky Waddle’s, they want a hub for culture to stay right here in the community,” he said.

Koerber, who has bought hard-to-find comics from Ducky Waddle’s for some time, said he was moved to do something last summer after finding out the store was at risk of closing. He added that the number of donations to the Indiegogo campaign thus far proves people see the value in saving it.

Besides offering scarce items, poet Darius Degher said in an email that Ducky Waddle’s has been “incredibly supportive of local artists.”

“That’s why I held the book release event for my poetry collection there, and why my daughter Cleopatra had her CD release event there,” Degher said.

He also called Ducky Waddles a microcosm of Leucadia.

“That little shop embodies the qualities that define Leucadia itself: artsiness, adventurousness, cultural hybridization, and, yes, funkiness.”

Typical of crowdfunding campaigns, contributors receive perks. These range from $5 for a Ducky Waddles postcard, all the way up to $250 for a membership, which provides discounts on items and waives the admission charge for events that have a fee to enter.

Even if the store only obtains half of the $20,000 goal, Waddle said this would be a major boost to Ducky Waddle’s, located at 414 N. Coast Highway 101.

Waddle, 75, said he has “a historic knowledge and aesthetic eye” for finding rare items and underground art. That talent led him to open an art and collectibles shop in San Diego in the 1970s, and then he moved the business to Los Angeles in the mid-1980s, though the shop was later destroyed by the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Two years later, he started anew with Ducky Waddle’s.

Popular street artist Shepard Fairey, famed for his Barack Obama “Hope” campaign poster, was an early customer. Waddle hosted shows for Fairey at the emporium and represented him for a decade.

“I’ve always tried to support emerging artists and musicians,” Waddle said.

For Waddle, shuttering the store is unthinkable.

“The store is my life,” Waddle said. “If I have to close this store, I don’t know what I’d do.”

He continued: “I think it’s worth saving, and I hope that people who see the crowdfunding campaign feel the same way.”

Visit duckywaddles.com.

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