Jedlicka’s: A Santa Barbara Institution (published in October of 2009 in the SB News Press)

Since 1932, when George “Jed” Jedlicka opened up shop, Jedlicka’s has been going strong, and growing strong, thanks to a simple but effective set of key business guidelines.  With two locations—Santa Barbara and Los Olivos—Jedlicka’s is a one-stop-shop for anything and everything the horse enthusiast or those of us interested in a quality pair of boots, a hat, or some western wear may want or need.

Starting from humble beginnings, Jed Jedlicka opened a small shoe repair shop in the same location where we find the company’s Santa Barbara headquarters today—2605 De La Vina Street.  On the advice of J.J. Hollister, Sr., Jedlicka soon began making saddles and boots.  Word spread quickly about the quality of the fine leather goods Jedlicka was hand-crafting, and soon prominent locals, politicians and well-heeled cowboys proudly wore Jed’s leather around the streets and ranches of Santa Barbara County.  In 1946, a junior high school student named Josiah “Si” Jenkins, at just fourteen, went to work for Jedlicka.  Soon after, the store expanded into western wear, acquiring contracts with top labels such as Levi’s and Stetson Hats. 
Around 1960, Jedlicka’s was incorporated and a buy/sell agreement was put in place.  Jed did not have any children, so he began gifting stock to Si each year.  In the late 1960’s, Jed had a stroke, and the responsibilities of running the business fell to Si.  Over the following years, up until the deaths of Jed and then his wife, Si took care of their needs and ran the business.  Upon their deaths, Si acquired ownership of Jedlicka’s. 
In 1977, the Los Olivos location was opened at 2883 Grand Avenue, in what had been an old blacksmith’s shop—a fitting link to the past for the store. 
Today, Jedlicka’s no longer makes boots or saddles, and has expanded their lines to include Tony Lama, Lucchese, Justin, and Roper boots, Stetson Hats, Carhartt, Levi’s, Circle T, Wrangler, and Stetson clothing, sterling silver jewelry, belt buckles, and saddles, tack, and everything else for those with horses, whether they ride western or English.  They even offer tire swings that look like horses!  Jedlicka’s also offers their extensive inventory online, (www.jedlickas.com) so sales are generated nationwide.
Sales at Jedlicka’s are split roughly 70/30 between clothing (70%), which includes three broad categories—clothing, footwear, and headwear, and saddlery (30%), which includes saddles, tack, grooming, and riding accessories.  Within the clothing segment, clothing is the largest component to sales, with footwear, including boots, the second largest revenue driver, and headwear the smallest.  Boots individually remain one of the best selling items Jedlicka’s offers, and it has been that way for many years.
Si relates that sales are off about 4 to 5 percent this year, which is rare for Jedlicka’s, a business that has been able to drive consistent annual growth nearly every year of its existence.  The Los Olivos store has a larger tourist component, and tends to sell more jewelry and accessories that appeal to travelers, whereas the locals, especially in Los Olivos, tend to focus on their basic needs for themselves and their horses.
So what makes a business successful over so many years?
Si states that he follows some very basic guidelines, and hasn’t changed the way he conducts business since day one.  First and foremost, Si advises that you must take good care of your customers.  The old adage, “the customer is always right” describes Si’s policy. 
“If you treat your customers right, they will come back.  It’s that simple,” says Si.
Avoiding unionization is another point Si stresses.  He imparts that, as a business owner, you must take good care of your employees, treat them fairly, pay them well, and make them a member of your business family.
Another point Si makes is that he has always made sure he had the money to make purchases before buying things.  In other words, he has avoided debt consistently throughout the years.  Although he admits that he wishes sometimes he had borrowed to buy property at certain times, in general, he feels that avoiding debt has protected Jedlicka’s when times were tough.
Jedlicka’s, (and Si personally), has always been an active participant in community events, such as Old Spanish Days, and has been a long-standing member of the Chamber of Commerce.  Si also spent 19 years on the 19th District Agricultural Association Board, serving as its president for many years, which oversees Earl Warren Show Grounds.  Basically, if it has had anything to do with horses, Si and Jedlicka’s have been actively engaged, year-in, year-out.
Most importantly, Si states that building and maintaining a good business requires much more than a Monday through Friday, 9 to 5 work schedule.  It requires 10 to 12 hours a day six or seven days a week, not just sometime, but all the time.  (I know a bit about this aspect of running a business myself.)  If you are not prepared to make this kind of time commitment, Si says your chances of succeeding are slim to none.
Over the years Jedlicka’s has added-on to their De La Vina location, increasing their sales floor and their horse services area.  Going forward, Si plans to expand Internet sales, offering even more products online.  While no plans are in the works today for a third Jedlicka’s location, if the right spot becomes available, we just might see the company expanding to new markets.
I am always impressed with companies that survive and thrive over many years.  From my experience, they tend to have the same core business practices, regardless of the type of business or the products or services offered.  These core beliefs and practices, such as treating customers and employees well, fiscal restraint, carrying top quality products or offering only the highest level of services, a great location or locations, and putting in the hours, are the keys to building and growing a successful business.  My hat’s off to Si and Jedlicka’s for their success and for the positive impact they make on Santa Barbara.
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