The idea for Skipjack as a store originated from a sail and dive trip through the British Virgin Islands and Virgin Gorda. We visited the legendary Pusser's in Tortolla and Marina Cay where I pretty much fell in love with their restaurants and stores. But I wanted to buy the artwork and cased models that were store decorations and not for sale.
Years later Alison and I were visiting her parents in Florida and made friends with a nautical import business filled with great ship's hardware and unique nautical decor. What if we created a great ship's store with our own line of nautical products and apparel but was also filled with authentic nautical antiques and instruments, exceptional marine art and high quality nautical/coastal furnishings for the coastal homeowner and lifestyle? The seed was planted.
Skipjack Nautical Wares & Marine Gallery's first store was opened in the spring of 2003 on Norfolk Avenue in Virginia Beach, Virginia just a few blocks from the oceanfront and close to Rudee Inlet in what once was the original Wave Riding Vehicle Surf Shop. The store slowly began to find an audience and has grown to represent the seafaring way of life in all its wonderful forms. Alison and I personally live the nautical/coastal lifestyle and strive to offer to you the products that we would want to own and wear ourselves. Whether it's an item from our maritime antiques, a great marine painting created by one of our fine artists, a custom grate table, a nautical chart lampshade or a Skipjack T-shirt, all of our fine things are selected and designed to create the perfect nautical lifestyle.
In 2005 we purchased an old warehouse building in historic Olde Towne Portsmouth, Virginia situated on a block full of great antique shops, art galleries and specialty stores. This was to be the permanent address for Skipjack. Skipjack had found a home until just a few days before Christmas, 2007, when a fire broke out in a church located adjacent to us and a resulting explosion damaged our building. Our building together with all of our store inventory and our second story residence above with all of our personal belongings was destroyed when the City of Portsmouth hired a demolition company and bulldozed down our building the same day as the fire, demolishing the structure and all of the valuable antiques and fine arts still inside! Now homeless and without a business, we pulled ourselves up by the boot straps and started to rebuild Skipjack and our lives with the help of family members, friends and neighbors.
Fall of 2008 gave rebirth to Skipjack in a historic Olde Towne Portsmouth waterfront building overlooking the Elizabeth River just a stones throw away from the 0 miles marker of the Atlantic Intra-coastal Waterway. The new gallery was double the size of the previous location and offered a broader selection of everything nautical for your home, yacht and coastal lifestyle. Skipjack re-built and survived the recession, and we enjoyed the unparalleled view from our front windows of a first order Fresnel lighthouse lens and the always changing boat traffic on the Elizabeth River. In 2015, our building changed hands and the new owners set out to completely renovate the historic building. Unfortunately, the plans included a swimming pool for residents where our store was located....we had to move!
We considered a new direction for Skipjack as a web-only business like a number of our competitors have recently done, but we thought that to be unwise since so many of our customers like to come and visit our gallery to touch and feel the items prior to purchasing them. So we set out two or three times a month we set out in search of a new home for Skipjack. Our travels took us as far north as Massachusetts and south to Palm Beach. Our search was focused on similar historic seaport towns and cities that would be a perfect fit for our nautical wares business. Two properties would have suited us well, one in Saint Augustine, Florida and the other, a great old warehouse on the Savannah River just outside the historic district of Savannah, Georgia. But as luck has it, other businesses just beat us to leasing the spaces. We also considered a storefront in Beaufort, South Carolina, but the rent was just too high for our needs. There were also other viable locations but the cost of leasing a space in a new market plus the cost of moving both our store and residence was simply too much.
We focused our search locally and looked at numerous available retail spaces all around Hampton Roads, Virginia. After all of our hunting, we decided to stay right here in our beloved Olde Towne Portsmouth and set our sights to what might work for us. After months of travel and searching the east coast, we narrowed our choice down to two stores, both within 8 blocks of where we were presently located! The new Skipjack Nautical Wares & Marine Gallery is an exceptional 6500 square foot nautical store is stocked full of our ever-changing maritime inventory. Come and visit us at our new store located at 620 High Street (across the street from our second store). Hopefully Skipjack 4.0 will be the final storefront for Skipjack. I'm not sure we have another move in us! Joe & Alison Elder
Live the life you love, love the life you live!
Skipjack 4.0 Bigger and Better than Ever -- 620 High Street -- 2015-present
Skipjack 3.0 on the Riverfront -- One High Street -- 2008-2015
Skipjack 2.0 -- The Old 629 High Street Showroom -- 2005-2007
Skipjack 1.0 -- The Original Virginia Beach Showroom -- 2003-2005