FORT WALTON BEACH — Nearly a year after they started pursuing their dream, Danny Llewellyn and Chuck Jackson — and now, their new partner, Shawn Wolfe — reckon they're more than halfway to achieving it.
Last April, Llewellyn and Jackson were sitting in the garage of Llewellyn's Pryor Road home, slowly transforming some lead weights and hooks given to them by a friend into fishing jigs and flies, and dreaming of the day they could leave their jobs at Fudpucker's to sell the jigs — maybe even in their own fishing tackle store.
They're already thinking seriously about a name for the business — "The Jig Is Up," a smiling Lllewellyn said.
Otherwise, though, they're not quite there yet — Jackson and Wolfe still are at Fudpucker's, and Llewellyn is now at Buffalo Wild Wings. But, working night after night after night in Llewellyn's garage, they're now selling their jigs — some designed to catch cobia, others designed for bonito, still others for pompano — on the Okaloosa Island Pier.
Like so much else that has marked their entrepreneurial adventure, getting their jigs into the tackle shop at the pier was a matter of happy circumstance. One recent day, on little more than a whim, Llewellyn and his partners approached Peyton Scott, manager of the Okaloosa Island Pier, about getting some counter space to sell their jigs.
He ordered 75 flies, 75 bonito jigs, and 75 cobia jigs.
Llewellyn and his two business partners still are working to fill the order, and as of late last week, were about 40 cobia jigs short of what Scott wants from them. Scott isn't too perturbed about the delay, but with tourist and fishing season looming, he's told the three men that he'll need future orders filled more quickly.
So far, somewhere around 20 of the jigs have been purchased at the pier, but Scott notes that, since it's now the off-season, that's not necessarily an accurate indication of how well the jigs will sell. And, he said, since the three men are experienced local fishermen, they know what kind of jigs will work in local waters.
"I love that they're locals," Scott said. "I'm always looking for new jigs, new rigs." He's clearly confident in the jigs and flies, which he's buying in bulk from the three men.
"Number one, they're going to catch some fish," Scott said. "And number two, they're beautiful ... A lot of people do shop with their eyes."
The dream now coming into focus for Llewellyn, Jackson and Wolfe started simply enough. Llewellyn and Jackson had grown tired of paying top dollar for jigs they figured they could make themselves. Now, Jackson reckons that he, Llewellyn and Wolfe are "about 60 percent of the way" to giving up their restaurant jobs and turning full-time to making jigs.
"It's crazy now," Jackson said. "It's like 'Wow!'" It's getting easier, he said, to think about that day when he and his partners "eventually get out of the kitchen, and make our own hours."
Plus, Jackson added, "We've been doing it too long now to stop."
Llewellyn, who hopes that someday, he'll be able to turn a full-fledged tackle business over to his two young daughters, Autumn and Heather, has a vision that one day, the jigs and flies will be found in tackle shops all along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, along with T-shirts, hats and other paraphernalia, all of it based from a local tackle shop.
But for now, Llewellyn is content to just get the jigs and flies in front of potential customers.
"It isn't about the money, it's about putting these out there and seeing where it goes," he said.
"We have no idea where it's going," he added. "As long as you're learning something every day, there's no right way, there's no wrong way."