Little Italy has been enjoying a return to greatness over the past few years now. The renaissance is fully underway with an injection of businesses that have been attracting locals and tourists alike.
Ballast Point, Bottlecraft and Juniper & Ivy have joined area mainstays like The Casbah, Chrome Digital and Mona Lisa to make the area more diverse than ever. It was that excitement that attracted Clarke Ledger to the neighborhood over a year ago while he was working as a sales rep for a local surf brand.
“I would stop in at Ballast Point for a beer on my way home and I loved how the area was changing,” Ledger said. “I kept asking myself, ‘Why is there no retail in Little Italy,’ so I did some research. That’s when I found my dream location for the store. When I found out it was available, we went for it.”
With that, Ledger introduced Little Italy to its first surf shop with his soft opening just a few days before Christmas 2015.
“The name comes from a desert in Chile that hasn’t received an inch of rain for over 400 years, but life still thrives there,” he said. “The locals pay attention to their surroundings and adapt as necessary. To me, retail needs to be looked at the same way. That’s how I came up with Atacama: The Ability to Adapt.”
Address: 2165 India St., Little Italy
Phone: (760) 670-7079
It’s that type of ethos that represents Ledger well. He spent years managing a successful surf shop in North County before he hit the road as a sunglass sales rep, which took him into every surf shop in San Diego County.
Through his experience, he learned the correct way to operate a business and takes pride in providing superior customer service. I asked him what differentiates Atacama from other San Diego retailers.
“I would definitely say that the history and culture of Little Italy is reflected in some of our T-shirt designs, " Ledger said. “As we progress, customers will be able to see more of that idea throughout the shop.”
San Diego surfboard shapers Chris Christenson, Tyler Warren and Eden Saul of Dead Kooks represent the top tier names Ledger plans to stock at the shop.
“We’re really trying to support small, independent artists and vendors from all over,” Ledger said. “We offer the larger, more popular brands but expect to see a lot more progression in terms of unique softgoods, accessories, local art, and the opportunity to support brands with charitable missions.”
As a lifelong San Diegan, Ken Lewis has surfing and ocean life in his DNA. A 30-year surfer himself, Lewis has worked in the surf and skate industry for most of his career. Send him thoughts about the surfing and fitness worlds to email@example.com or follow him on Instagram @hanger18.