Connecticut store’s Trump Ducks ‘make America quack again’
ESSEX — Sherri and Larry Athay have all their ducks in a row. All 1,000 bright yellow rubber ducks, that is.
Lining the shelves of their 300-square-foot store, Essex Duck, there are orange-billed rock stars, legends of stage and screen, professionals, tradesmen and women, historical figures and artists.
And this is no duck soup.
Joining the raft of rubber ducks are white-coated doctors (ducktors?), firemen in uniform, reporters, golfers, plumbers and carpenters. Famous water fowl — Betty Boop, Duck the Major, Blue Suede Rock ’n’ Roll, Gene Simmons Kiss, Anne Boleyn, Picasso and Salvadore Dali (“Salvador finds life at Essex Duck very surreal”) are just part of the quacky — oops — quirky inventory. Oh, and let’s not forget a red-headed Lucille Ball “I Love Ducky” or The Bard canary-yellow water fowl that proclaims “To Quack or Not to Quack.”
Clearly, this was the place to be on Saturday, Jan. 13, for National Rubber Ducky Day. “What else does one do, than buy a duck?” asked Essex resident Alan Miller. “We’re children of all ages,” the 79-year-old said.
Paying for the flamenco dancer rubber duck, a gift for his Barcelona-born wife, Miller talked about the couple’s collection of rubber duckies. The cheery webbed-footed creatures are not all destined for the bath tub, though.
“There’s one for the kitchen; it’s dressed as the cook,” he said. “Another one is Napoleon. I was a captain in the Coast Guard.
“Then I bought President Trump over there,” he said, adding that he voted for Trump. “Make America Quack Again.”
Of the 100 different styles, the Trump Rubber Duck at S12.99 and made of phthalate-free plastic, ducktail and all — is the top seller, said Sherri Athay, who expects a run on them as the first anniversary of the presidential inauguration approaches, Jan. 20.
“I think he’s so popular because, well, one, he’s a colorful figure, to say the least,” she says. “People from both sides of the political aisle, it appeals to both of them.
“People buy it for their boss or friend who voted for Trump, or they buy it for their business partner who doesn’t care for him as a way to play with them, I guess, tease them,” Athay said.
Prices range from $1.99 up to a high of $215, for the Swarovski Elements Dotted Duck. With only 180 made worldwide, this glittering duck, studded with Swarovski crystal elements, is displayed inside a locked, clear acrylic case. White gloves are a necessity when handling this precious piece.
While there is only one duck in the designer department of Essex Duck, when it first opened, there was an inventory that included two more of the $215 duck, a $925 Swarovski Elements VIP Duck and three Swarovski Elements Silver Ducks for $55.
No white paper bag, with an Essex Duck sticker affixed, for these beauties. These upscale ducks leave the store with their own personal luxury display box with a soft black inner bag and a pair of white handling gloves.
The boutique started with Sherri Athay’s impulse purchase of an oversized rubber duck that she named Penelope, after the wife of the hero Odysseus in Greek mythology. The story is told that Penelope, when an infant, was rescued by ducks after being thrown (by her father) into the sea, according to the store website, essexduck.com.
“I bought her at a toy store nearby and put her on my desk,” Sherri Athay said. “Three hours after putting her on my desk I said, ‘We’re opening a duck store.’ ”
As owners of the chocolate shop, Truffle Shots, this is the Athays’ second Essex retail establishment. Orders can be placed via the store’s website, essexduck.com.
Sherri Athay admits she was worried about what other merchants would think of their newest idea. Yet, she said, they have been warmly welcomed.
Now, a multitude of Penelopes, measuring 9.5 inches long by 7 inches wide by 8 inches high, are artfully arranged on the top tier of every shelf keeping a watchful eye on all the others.
Four-year-old Genevieve Brownell, of Branford, visiting the store with her parents, Alessandra and David Brownell, was sifting through a tub full of small rubber ducks to add to her ever-growing collection.
“She loves rubber ducks. Loves them,” Alessandra Brownell said.
“For Christmas all she wanted was a rubber ducky,” she said. “That’s all she wanted.”
Genevieve Brownell has named all her rubber duckies that she plays with in the tub. “I have Little White and Heart Big and Medium Yellow and Yellow Squeaky,” she said.
“She just gets so excited about it, so it just makes her happy,” Alessandra Brownell said.
Standing in the store, one might be reminded of the song on “Sesame Street”: “Rubber Ducky, I’m awfully fond of you …”
Not suprisingly, happy is what Essex Duck is all about, starting with Sherri Athay’s initial purchase of Penelope.
“(She) made me so happy,” Athay said. “It was just kind of like a little ray of sunshine in an ever-darkening world.”
“It just made her happy to look at it,” her husband said.
“I put her on my desk,” Sherri Athay said. “I said, ‘I’m going to have one bright spot in my day.’
“It just lifted me,” she said. “It sounds ridiculous, but a lot of people have the same response, where they’ll come in and you just see their spirits lifted. It’s just a fun and happy place.”
Essex Duck is at 51 Main St.; 860-581-8578, essexduck.com; Facebook Essex Duck.
Sarah Page Kyrcz can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.