As the days lengthen, residents are taking advantage of every minute of sunlight, and outdoor enthusiasts are finding joy yet again on their beloved excursions by foot and by boat. Dimitri Schidlovsky and Andrei Boglubov, co-owners of a business called Hook Life, created a brand based on their love of such adventures.
The partners, who are first-generation Americans, have known each other since they were children. Their parents had become friends in Sea Cliff’s small Russian-American community.
Schidlovsky grew up in New Jersey, but returned to Sea Cliff in 1979 to set up an art studio. His inspiration to create came from his grandmother, an internationally acclaimed miniaturist. Along with Boglubov, who is a marketer by trade, the two consulted for a number of large corporate clients, including Cablevision and IBM, on their commercial brands.
The partners had an epiphany when they realized they could create their own brand. It all started with an illustration of a fishing hook, which Schidlovsky, a self-described “biological illustrator,” created in 2006. He began selling apparel, hats and stickers sporting the simple design at Sea Cliff’s annual Mini Mart, which sparked a word-of-mouth tsunami within the community.
“Every year after Mini Mart, you’d have a wave of people coming in, saying, ‘Are you the artist that has the sticker and T-shirts with that hook on it?’” Boglubov recounted. “It’s a little bit like the Nike swoosh; it’s a simple symbol that evokes something in people.”
After 10 years of selling exclusively at seaside festivals, the partners established a storefront in Sea Cliff. In July 2016, they upgraded Schidlovsky’s studio space at 252 Sea Cliff Ave. to include shelving and a modest clothing rack for their products. The line has since expanded.
The latest addition to Hook Life’s lineup is a sub-brand called EcoMotifs. “We identified different sectors of an estuary — droplet, reef, air, plant, tidal, water and deep — and each sector has its own design,” Schidlovsky explained. The designs depict marine plants and animals that inhabit the different sectors, set in a circle. The owners lovingly refer to the motifs as “circles of life.”
“We wanted to have stuff that’s true to nature’s patterns and shapes and species and colors,” Boglubov said. “It’s an authentic brand from people who’ve fished all their lives.”
“There’s an educational component to this,” Schidlovsky added, “and it reflects our commitment to the ecology and awareness of the animals.”
Hook Life also contributes to the health of marine ecosystems by donating a portion of its proceeds to aid restoration projects championed by the Community Oyster Restoration Effort, an advocacy group that works to keep Long Island’s coastal waters clean.
In just two years, Hook Life’s brand has found its way into sporting goods stores and surf shops Island-wide, and its distinctive emblem has caught the eye of members of every demographic group. Boglubov attributes the success to simplicity. “With a brand,” he said, “you can build something that goes beyond your immediate community, if you start with something that works.”
The impetus to evolve from a small-scale sticker supplier to a full-fledged business was the almost ethereal resonance the brand engenders. “People are motivated by this aspirational lifestyle,” Schidlovsky said. “They get a good feeling about buying something that reminds them of some of the nicest times. When you go fishing or boating, or you just go outside for a walk, you feel that connection to nature, and that’s what we think this ultimately symbolizes.”
For more information about Hook Life, visit www.hook.life, or visit @hooklifeusa on social media.