San Diego Marine Supply Stores Celebrate Birthdays

Byline: Taylor Hill

San Diego Marine Supply Stores Celebrate Birthdays

SAN DIEGO — A family of three marine supply stores — all located around San Diego’s Shelter Island —  is celebrating birthdays this year. Owner Judy Donnelly is preparing to mark Sailing Supply’s 40th anniversary and San Diego Marine Exchange’s 60th year since incorporating.

Donnelly — a San Diego native who owns San Diego Marine Exchange, Sailing Supply and Downwind Marine — explained that each store specializes in serving a different, specific group of Southern California boaters.

San Diego Marine Exchange specializes in supplying parts and gear for powerboaters, sportfishing boat owners, do-it-yourselfers and professional repairers. Sailing Supply focuses on sailors’ needs. And Downwind Marine specializes in items for long-range and local cruising boaters.

That specialization is one of the secrets to their success — but the other secret is having experienced, helpful staffs, Donnelly said.

“It’s very much like a family at our stores,” Donnelly said. “We have people working for us who have been in this business for a long time, and we figure to have around 600 years of experience between our 55 employees.”

Marine Exchange specializes in boat-operating requirements, including engine-related parts and running gear, electrical products, pumps and replacement parts, fittings, sandpaper and cleaning products. The store was established by Elliott Pohl in 1950, and it was purchased by Donnelly and her late husband, Dale, in 1983.

“At the time, my husband had recently retired from real estate, and buying the store gave us something to do,” Judy Donnelly said. “Now, San Diego Marine Exchange sells products to powerboats and the area’s fishing fleet, along with other marine hardware stores as far up the coast as San Pedro.”

Following their success at San Diego Maritime Exchange, in 2002, the Donnellys decided to purchase the nearby Sailing Supply store on Canon Street — less than a block from the Marine Exchange store.

“When Sailing Supply came along, it added the sailing dimension to our efforts,” Donnelly said. Sailing Supply handles sailboat hardware, rigging and technical apparel for competitive, performance and recreational sailors alike.

After Dale Donnelly’s death in 2003, Judy and her daughter, Shelly Bucklew, kept the stores going, with Bucklew taking on Judy Donnelly’s accounting and office management responsibilities, and Donnelly taking the reins of the company.

She decided to expand the marine store’s reach further in 2008, purchasing Downwind Marine from Chris Frost, who has stayed on as manager of the store ever since.

Located in the same shopping center as Sailing Supply, Downwind Marine — a 27-year-old business previously known as Pacific Marine Center — focuses on the cruising boater. The store stocks a full range of equipment and accessories to correctly outfit boats for the various types of cruising available out of San Diego — whether boaters plan to cruise around the bay or around the world.

“With the three stores, we pretty much have the three types of boaters taken care of,” Donnelly said.

“We try to keep on hand what the working boater, the fishing fleet, the racing sailor and the cruiser need,” she added. “We do our best to keep those things on supply, and we have clerks that can answer questions, or get the questions answered for you.”

San Diego Marine Exchange is located at 2636 Shelter Island Drive, Downwind Marine is at 2804 Canon St. and Sailing Supply is at 2822 Canon St. For more information, visit

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