The Codfish Cowboy x Angela Skudin
It's not the wine country that is the North Fork, it's not the exclusive soiree scene of the Hamptons, nor is it quite the suburban sprawl that takes up much of the rest of Long Island. Long Beach, New York is a two square mile city of 30,000 people whose lives revolve around the 3.5 miles of beautiful beaches and 2.2 mile long boardwalk. Surfing, sunny days, and stiff drinks are certainly themes you’ll see thriving in the Long Beach’s West End, but scratch a little deeper and you’ll find so much more to this little community.
In the West End, where the bay and ocean are separated by two blocks, an impressive amount of restaurants, bars, and boutiques bring West Beech Street to life. In the midst of the action is an independent shop that draws you in with earthy smells and a friendly chalkboard whale letting you know they're open. This is The Codfish Cowboy. It’s the kind of store where you are guaranteed to find the perfect gift you went in to buy, and also sure to come out with your new favorite thing. Clever home items, a selection of clothing, unique jewelry, adorable kids stuff and more - it's all the vision of Angela Skudin, its founder and owner.
What makes the beachy Codfish Cowboy even more unique is that it's filled with pieces made by local residents. There's a very low chance you'll be able to go in and then find the item on Amazon later. Skudin prides herself on the fact that when you purchase one of her beautifully curated products, you are supporting a Long Beach maker. At the heart of her ethos is the notion of giving back; bringing something lovely into your life or home while supporting others, it's a win-win.
Here I talk to founder Angela Skudin for If Lost Start Here about what drove her to start The Codfish Cowboy:
What is The Codfish Cowboy and how did the idea for it come about?
I’m classic for my impulsive “great ideas” that fully lack any research, plan, or thought. If you put a visual perspective to it, imagine it like being a squirrel in a cage. The Codfish Cowboy was an impulsive idea that came from the desire to have a shop in my current hometown that reminded me of the shops I love visiting in my original hometown in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I’ve always been “the best gift giver” in my family. I’m told I have the ability to choose the perfect gift for anyone. At the Codfish Cowboy you can find something for a newborn baby, a bachelorette party, housewarming, 80-year-old Aunt Betty.
Why did you decide to open the store in the West End of Long Beach?
When I moved from Tulsa to Long Beach 16 years ago, I lived in the West End with my now-husband. The West End has a vibe and energy that’s undeniable. The Codfish Cowboy is now part of that vibe.
You are very supportive of various causes, from local makers to crucial environmental issues. Can you talk about how you decide whose work to display and sell and how those two passions intersect?
My mother is an immigrant from Germany. My grandfather was a maker. He owned his own furniture-making business. My family still has the original couches he made with his own two hands half a century ago. You can’t get quality like that from a factory. That business made my family who they are today. It paid for private school for all 3 of his children and allowed my family to own a home in America. It’s important to support makers. In turn, we get handcrafted quality items that have a story and help a family.
When I curate, I want to know that story. I want to pass that story on to my customers. We can spend our money anywhere we chose. It feels good to spend it on a piece of handmade art from Long Beach high school’s art teacher whose family lives 3 blocks away and rolls by in their beach wagon waving hello as they pass the store.
Growing up, my family focused on helping others and making sure my sister and I knew what paying it forward felt like. We were a middle-class average family with 2 hard-working parents. Every Thanksgiving my family adopted a family in need and brought Thanksgiving to that family. Every Christmas we adopted a family in need and brought wrapped gifts and Christmas dinner to that family. I’ll never forget those moments. When you are a kid, everyone is equal. When we dropped off the presents and food, my parents would converse with the parents and my sister and I played with those kids like they were our long-time friends. There was no Rich vs Poor, no sense of entitlement. We were all equal. I carried that feeling with me and it’s never left.
As far as environmental issues go, I have always been that person that’s picking up trash in a field, grabbing rogue plastic bags in the ocean or making sure all the soda can rings were cut so a duck doesn’t get strangled. I’m the crazy lady that washes plastic straws and reuses them. I have had the same bag from Ikea for 8 years now. To me it’s common sense….we only have one Earth and it’s our responsibility to make sure she is around for the comfort of the next generation.
What inspired you to begin your apothecary line, “tribal life alchemy”?
Karen Michel, one of my partners, was the inspiration and soul of Tribe Life. One day she said to me, “we should do our own pure essential oil product line,” and I said, “absolutely not.” Fast forward 2 months later we had Tribe Life. Karen is a basically a wizard and can do anything. I give her my ideas for graphics and she can read my crazy brain. With Tribe Life, we really wanted to ensure the quality of the products we were offering to our customers. We live in a toxic world. If I can offer pure products that have therapeutic properties to our customers, I’m going to be able to rest easier. That’s what Tribe Life Alchemy is about.
How would you say The Codfish Cowboy has evolved over the years?
I wanted to build our audience organically. No paid ads (because there simply was no budget for that). I started The Codfish Cowboy with $25,000. The build was done by myself and my awesome handy FDNY husband Casey. The materials were repurposed. I did a lot of dumpster dives to get the wood for the walls and molding. There are pieces of Long Beach homes on the walls of The Codfish Cowboy and I think that’s pretty cool. We are up to right around 3k on our Instagram followers and we are looking to launch our online sales this fall. I’m excited to see that number grow.
What has been the most surprising thing about running the store?
The perception other people have about your business. Just because you have a store does not mean you are rich and just because I’m not physically standing in the store does not mean I’m not working. When you own a brick and mortar your job never ends. There’s a ton of back end work, vendor meetings, research, buying, etc. I’m one person. I can’t be everywhere all the time, but I try.
What is your favorite way to spend a day in Long Beach, aside from being behind the counter?
Shopping local, eating local, riding my beach cruiser on the boardwalk, and soaking in the sun on our beautiful beaches.
& visit my other West End Picks:
Blacksmith’s Breads 870 W Beech street
Dough Hut (right next door) 891 W Beech Street
Island Thyme 780 W Beech Street
Jetty Bar and Grill 832 W Beech Street
Lost at Sea 888 W Beech Street
RaKang 895W Beech Street
Shine’s Bar 55 California Street
Speakeasy 1032 W Beech Street