Longtime Fire Island sculptor finds a new home for his jewelry
Most Fire Islanders know exactly what a “Kenny” is.
Local artist Kenny Goodman’s unique charms and carvings have helped him leave his mark on Fire Island communities for decades.
In the 1990s, he launched his Ocean Beach storefront on Evergreen Walk, which has become a hidden gem in the community. He closed shop in 2017, but his “Kennys” are now making a long-awaited return with his new gallery in Ocean Bay Park.
“When the store closed, I was quite happy to be finished, but [the people] was not just being done and the demand was still there,” said Goodman, 77, noting the impetus for the new store opening on Bay View Walk, between the fire department and the Ocean Ferry Terminal. Bay Park.
A way to pass the time
The Brooklyn native first discovered his passion for jewelry making, sculpting and woodworking through his distaste for the beach.
At 24, Goodman had just finished college and was renting a house in Fair Harbor on Fire Island with a group of friends. He calls it the best time of his life.
The only problem was that he was never a big beachgoer; he found elastic swim shorts uncomfortable and hated having sand everywhere.
So, while his friends looked to the shore, he needed something to pass the time.
Goodman said he was definitely not an artist, but he started carving large pieces of wood he found near the Fire Island lighthouse and carving them into head sculptures, all with expressions and different personalities.
“I would be outside my house pounding — and I always have been outside,” Goodman said. “So I always had an audience and people going, ‘Wow, look at that.'”
Over time, his sculpture making evolved to create rings, pendants, necklaces, anklets, hand-carved walking sticks, plaques and more.
A recurring theme in all of his work is simply “To love life”.
Inspired by the book “The Little Prince”, Goodman believes in not insisting on numbers or income. Additionally, he emphasizes the value of being courteous, following your dreams, and not comparing yourself to others.
More than a memory
Once introduced to Kenny’s designs, it’s hard not to be intrigued, Goodman said.
Most locals, renters, workers, and even day-trippers are familiar with Goodman’s miniature masterpieces on Fire Island.
For example, Goodman said families would often go to dinner at one of the local Ocean Beach restaurants and notice that the waiter was wearing a “Kenny.”
After their meal, they went to Goodman’s gallery to see what it was all about.
Those who venture into Goodman’s shop typically go there to pick up a souvenir, but end up leaving feeling like they’ve experienced something special, the artist said.
Visitors are faced with an array of sterling silver surfboard and longboard charms, each with a different engraving. Smiling faces and peace signs feature among the carvings.
Children are typically drawn to these types of jewelry, Goodman said, and he witnessed first-hand some fundamental memories of self-expression for young shoppers.
“They were mesmerized,” Goodman said, reflecting on those times at the Ocean Beach boutique. “Children don’t have much opportunity to make their own decisions. You have to learn to know what you like.
Goodman would place the surfboard of his choice on a black lanyard or chain, place it around the child’s neck, and have him look at himself in the mirror.
Parents walked into the store delighted that their child had his own “Kenny” surfboard.
Past customers still treasure their very first “Kennys” to this day, Goodman said. Her jewelry has become a piece of Fire Island history, and kindness continues to drive her business.
“I’m totally flattered,” Goodman said. “I made a business of being nice, it’s easy for me to be nice first. I don’t think nice guys finish last, it might take you all the way.
The story continues after the photo.
Kenny’s Gallery at Ocean Bay Park
After closing her Ocean Beach gallery and going “nomadic” for a while, Meg Wallace of Wallace Real Estate approached Goodman with an opportunity.
Wallace purchased a building on Bay View Walk around March, and she approached Goodman about additional space where he could make and sell his jewelry.
He’s accepted the offer, has a one-year lease and is “driving happily,” the jeweler said.
“Initially I was going to sell what I had left, then I got excited,” he said. “It made my head spin. Before you know it, I made 100 surfboards.
Now comfortably settled in his new digs, Goodman said he would like his location in Ocean Bay Park to become more of a gathering space.
“I would love to involve more artists, just make it a place to hang out,” he said. “Artists have something to say… I show people’s work, I’m especially interested in young people and what they do.
Goodman said he knew he had earned a reputation as a great craftsman and person on Fire Island.
And his “Kennys” will last for generations. “I’ve done enough to feel great respect for myself,” Goodman said.
Above: Kenny Goodman in his new gallery at Ocean Bay Park.