Skipjack 5.0 The Final Frontier -- Round Pond, Maine -- 2020-
Skipjack 4.0 Bigger and Better than Ever -- 620 High Street -- 2015-2019
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
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 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, or a nautical chart lampshade, 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. There 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 were amazed by the outpouring of support from our family, friends, neighbors, and customers. With a LOT of help, we pulled ourselves up by the boot straps and started to rebuild Skipjack and our lives.
Fall of 2008 gave rebirth to Skipjack in a historic Olde Towne Portsmouth waterfront building overlooking the Elizabeth River just a stone's 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 (barely) 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, the building was sold 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 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. As luck would have it, we missed out on potential great spaces in Saint Augustine and Savannah.
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. We opened Skipjack 4.0 in an exceptional 6500 square foot space stocked full of our ever-changing maritime inventory. We said we were never moving again and of course tempted the fates.
Several years into our long-term lease we learned the building owners had a buyer and we were dismayed to have to move yet again. So dismayed that Joe uttered a wild and crazy retort to the news: "We should just move to Maine!" At that point Maine represented a complete unknown, insane destination (nobody believed us when we announced our plan!). But we quickly realized that it actually might tick a number of boxes on our wish list at that point in our lives. Eleven months later -- and, of course, after many ups and downs along the way, we closed on our dream property: a circa 1820 home and attached barn on 20 acres in an authentic fishing village in mid-coast Maine. Every day we marvel at the gorgeous spot in which we landed!
Joe & Alison Elder