Owner, Jerry Waddle, displaying his assortment of unique art, books, and gifts at his Encinitas store.

Photographs by Anne Hiles

Ducky Waddle’s

“I cater to subcultures ... stuff you can’t find in Barnes & Noble or Borders .... It’s a very personal store ... I try to find the best of what San Diego has to offer ... my customers are extremely loyal and really value this as a resource, and I’m gratified by that. It’s a nice place for me to hang out and work ... It’s a personal library, if you will.”

By Michael Browne | Feb - March 2006

At first glance you might think this store caters only to serious collectors and purveyors of alternative, “underground” culture. However, anyone willing to explore this one of a kind store/gallery should find plenty to engage his or her tastes, with prices that meet a wide variety of budgets.

Not exactly your local arts and crafts mart, “Ducky Waddle’s Emporium,” located at 414 N. Coast Highway 101 in Encinitas, specializes in an eclectic assortment of books, art, magazines, and toys. For a quick look at the goods “DWE” has to offer, new patrons can check out their merchandise catalogue at www.duckywaddles.com

In a nation saturated by Wal-Mart and indistinguishable strip malls, Ducky Waddle’s is a rare haven for those looking for unique and offbeat books, graphic art, and sculpture. You needn’t rummage through stockpiles of generic mass produced posters to find original silk-screens and lithographs by illustrators like, Charles Burns and Shepard Fairey. Everything is readily available right there on the shelves, as casually as any product on display at Target.

For a better idea of Ducky Waddle’s mission statement, consider the fact that they feature the largest selection of tattoo books in San Diego County, as well as a wealth of international folk art, primarily from Latin America, but also including India, Nepal, and Japan.

“I cater to subcultures,” explains store founder, owner, operator, and biggest fan, Jerry Waddle. “I have the stuff you can’t find in Barnes & Noble or Borders.”

Waddle has been in the art business for over 40 years, formerly dealing mostly in art antiques and collectibles. Fusing his lifelong passion for books, with his interests in art, Waddle saw an opportunity to show contemporary works in a gallery setting.

The first Ducky Waddle’s popped up on L.A.’s Sunset Boulevard in 1988; part of what later became the “Silver Lake Renaissance,” but in 1994 an earthquake destroyed the store. Waddle headed back to his hometown of San Diego in May of 1996 to open a new Ducky Waddle’s.

Though it remains one of the smaller bookstores in the county, and Waddle has never had much use for networking with other galleries, bookstores, or dealers; the store has received an incredible amount of positive feedback from peers, customers, and fellow entrepreneurs –touted as being the best of its kind in all of San Diego.

“We get feedback daily from bookstore owners, scouts, and readers about the outstanding range of books we carry,” Waddle said.

Word of mouth is the best advertising, according to Waddle. His customers regularly return with friends and relatives, and many tourists and campers from Cardiff stop by every year. Best of all, even if certain patrons only come in once a year, most always return due to the plethora of specialty items available.

Waddle has supported countless local emerging artists by staying on top the San Diego art scene. His first art-show featured local “cubismo” painter and comic book artist, Mary Fleener. Waddle’s proudest accomplishments include hosting New York-based painter, Tim McCormick’s first one-man art-show, in addition to shows featuring painter Scott Saw, and street artist Shepard Fairey. Ducky Waddle’s has the largest selection of Fairey’s artwork in the world, and he is slated to visit the store May 6 and 7 for a brand new one-man show and book signing.

With its hipster appeal, Ducky Waddle’s does not cater to every artistic medium. However, Jerry Waddle keeps an open mind when considering the many artists contacting him daily with hopes of displaying their art in the store. As a seasoned veteran of the art game, he tends to be very critical of the material he features. For Jerry it’s more about the quality of the art than just making a quick buck.

“It’s a very personal store,” says Waddle. “My primary criteria, is that I’ve got to like the stuff myself. There is no shortage of bad art, and I try to find the best of what San Diego has to offer.”

Though Waddle is continually seeking out new and interesting art, no plans are underway to expand the store or open additional locations. The emporium will remain at “One Location Worldwide.” Given the miraculous unlikelihood of an independent bookstore staying in business for over ten years, Waddle is keeping open the possibility of eventually marketing his wares exclusively on the internet; a move that would nullify one of Waddle’s more brilliant advertising slogans — “23 feet south of Lou’s Records.”

The store’s frequently updated, ever-growing website displays numerous items ranging from a few dollars to a few thousand dollars for the serious collector.

“I do this for me. That’s the bottom line. If anyone else benefits from it, then that’s a bonus. My customers are extremely loyal and really value this as a resource, and I’m gratified by that. It’s a nice place for me to hang out and work, and it is a continuing resource for myself. It’s a personal library, if you will.”

There is no better time than in the coming months to check out Waddle’s personal stash. In May he will be celebrating a “10th Anniversary Gallery Show,” highlighting work from all the artists he has showcased since the shop opened.

If you’re bored with Thomas Kinkade at your regular art retailer, or you’re seeking something beyond J.K. Rowling and Tom Clancy—Ducky Waddle’s Emporium is the place for you. The next time you’re in Encinitas and feel like browsing a bookstore, or if you just want to see some really cool merchandise; remember, “23 feet south of Lou’s Records.”

You can’t miss it, and it would a real shame if you did.

Writer Michael Browne can be reached at