JESSE JAMES JOECKEL: Working

“There’s not one shirt that doesn’t sell”
Jesse Joeckel is often surrounded by friends at his silk-screen T-shirt shop in Montauk. Carrie Ann Salvi

   At the Whalebone Creative, Jesse James Joeckel’s silk-screen shop on Tuthill Road in Montauk, the mood is decidedly laid-back. He works on his hand-sketched and stenciled designs “when it makes sense,” he said, taking a break to swim or fish in Fort Pond Bay behind the shop but sometimes staying open until 10:30 at night.
    The mellow atmosphere has made his shop a gathering place for friends, who can often be found fishing or swimming out back or sharing stories on the shop’s front porch. Inside, Mr. Joeckel does “what he loves,” dreaming up and creating images to print on T-shirts, hats, bags, and accessories in an array of designs that have built him a solid following in the two years the shop has been open.
    “There’s not one shirt that doesn’t sell,” the 25-year-old entrepreneur said on Sunday. Before opening last year, he freelanced for local boutiques, but realized that to make a profit, he needed to work for himself. And so far, it’s working out, allowing him to make enough to eat and pay his rent, he said, and to continue enjoying life in Montauk in the summer and other places in the winter. This November, he will travel to “surf for a month or two,” and will then incorporate his travel experiences into his designs, garments that are colored with “stories exchanged, waves found, and ideas inspired,” according to his Facebook page.
    Mr. Joeckel inherited some of his artistic gifts from his grandfather, who carved duck decoys and inspired him to turn his passion into his profession. His grandfather died before Mr. Joeckel opened the shop, but the business is named after his dog, Whalebone.
    The Duryea Lobster Deck brings prospective customers down to the serene waterfront area where he has set up shop. From behind the wooden showcase he built by hand, he pointed to the open shelves below, which held several varieties of T-shirts for men, women, and children. A young customer already wearing one Whalebone T-shirt stepped up with his father and a big grin to buy another one.
    Mr. Joeckel’s creations can be spotted all over Montauk. Lisa Rooney, a friend who was wearing a Whalebone trucker cap at John’s Drive-In on Sunday afternoon, said that Mr. Joeckel has made a name for himself in a short time, mostly by word of mouth.
    On July 8, Mr. Joeckel will partner with Washout, a new bar down the road, for a co-promotional event at which the rapper Mickey Avalon will perform. The designer may also take his work to California, where he attended college, for a West Coast winter operation.
    But for now, he can be found most of the time between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. at the shop on Tuthill Road.