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San Clemente Journal

Russell Stationers-Souvenirs, The Fourth Generation

Dec 07, 2021 09:33AM ● By Nina Welch

David and C.J. Russell minding the family business.

Russell Stationers-Souvenirs is a 71-year-old San Clemente family business. “We’re an attraction for tourists as well as locals,” says owner David Russell. “Tourists visiting from afar shop at Russell’s to bring San Clemente back home, and locals shop at Russell’s to bring San Clemente as gifts on their travels.” According to David, the same customers, who camp at the State Park, frequent the store every year. “One lady brings in her numerous grandkids to shop, each with an allowance to spend,” says David.

Four generations of Russell owners have been selling their wares since 1950 on Ave. Del Mar. Russell (nicknamed Mike) opened Russell Stationers in the arcade at 142-144 Ave. Del Mar. His son, Chuck, operated the business when they moved to the Ola Vista/Del Mar corner. This full-service office supply store sold typewriters, desks, and filing cabinets. Chuck’s son, David, started working for his dad when he was 13. He took the bus from junior high to the store every day after school.

In 2008, David, along with his sons, C.J. and Brian, relocated to 136 Ave. Del Mar. In changing times, the store gradually morphed from selling strictly office supplies as varied local businesses closed up shop. They started selling souvenirs when Coronets across the street closed. Coronets closed when Wal-Mart came to town. San Clemente T-shirts and sweatshirts became a regular fare when the T-Shirt Company closed. 

Almost everything in the store has a beach or San Clemente theme. Brian Russell is a photographer and his framed art lines the walls. A variety of greeting cards are popular in the store, and during the holidays, shoppers can find Christmas cards, ornaments, and even a surfing nutcracker. Of course, one cannot overlook the beautiful collection of shells, which completely covers the store windows and are lined in glass shelves. “We started selling the shells when Ace Hardware closed,” says David. It’s fitting in a beach town that there should be a place to purchase seashells since beach glass and heart rocks are mainly the only ornate treasures found on the shore these days.

When asked about hobbies, David said “The store has been my life. I’ve enjoyed it the whole time. I work four days a week, four hours a day.” “We can’t get him out of here,” added C.J. jokingly. David has lived in San Clemente his entire life. He and his wife, Terry, enjoy traveling. An Alaskan cruise was a highlight for them this year.

David’s two sons will eventually take over. If C.J’s sons, Forrest and Mirick, are waiting in the wings, Russell’s San Clemente retail tradition will live on.

Russell’s Stationers-Souvenirs, 136 Ave. Del Mar; Hours: 10am-6pm daily. 
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