PICTURED: The Jarvis Family outside the former Salzer’s Video building. Photo submitted
by Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer
The Jarvis family has been a part of the Ventura County cannabis industry for years. Long before most dispensaries were operating in the area, Lonnie and Nancy Jarvis (who also operated Channel Islands Boatyard, which was opened by Lonnie’s parents) were cultivating under Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. When Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, was passed by the state of California in 2016, it opened the door for the city of Port Hueneme’s Ordinance 734, which allowed for the operation of cannabis facilities for medicinal and non-medicinal use. At that point, Lonnie and Nancy made the move to retail, safely and legally opening Safeport in 2018. Today they run their dispensary with children Nicole and Matt, providing one of the largest selections of products in the county. Marketing maven Nicole Jarvis talked with the Ventura County Reporter about her family’s homegrown enterprise.
What inspired you to open Safeport?
Our family has been involved in the cannabis industry for 15-plus years. Desperate to help a loved one in need, along with his love of cannabis, my dad, Lonnie, started working in the cannabis industry in 2007. When Prop 64 passed in 2016, Lonnie and Nancy patiently waited for a city close to home to pass an ordinance. In 2017 the city of Port Hueneme passed ordinance 734, allowing recreational cannabis businesses. With the aspirations to provide safe access to cannabis in their hometown, as well as a safe working environment for their family, my parents knew they had to pursue this business venture. In 2018 our family opened Safeport Port Hueneme to the public.
Who were the main people involved at that time, and who is involved now?
It was a family venture from the start! My parents, my brother, Matt, and I worked together to open Safeport in 2018. To this day it is still family owned and operated. Lonnie and Nancy are the founders, I serve as creative director and chief marketing officer, Matt is the product buyer. In 2018 Brad Schouten came on as our general manager, and today he stands as our chief operating officer.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when Safeport first opened?
We had many challenges when we first opened Safeport, but the biggest was the financial risk. My parents put every cent they had and invested it into Safeport; they took equity out of our family home to launch Safeport. We are happy to report that the risk paid off!
Navigating a highly regulated industry presented challenges that we had not encountered before in more conventional businesses. The learning curve was very steep. Finding locations initially was a challenge because most landlords we talked to were afraid to let their property be used for the cannabis industry, for fear of repercussions from the federal government.
Marketing is crucial for a successful business and with the heavy restrictions on cannabis marketing, that has also been a tough obstacle to overcome.
Cannabis use and its perception has changed dramatically over the last decade. How has your business evolved as a result of that?
Traditionally the cannabis industry was very male dominated. Since legalization, Safeport alongside the rest of the industry has been working hard to do our part to destigmatize the industry. We made sure to make our store a very comfortable space for all genders. We did that with aesthetics, marketing, products and a level of customer service we instilled in our employees. We put focus on education and taking time with our customers, rather than pushing them out the door as quickly as possible. Doing this created a wider clientele, opening up a market for more diverse products. We are proud to say our current clientele is now almost 50/50 women and men!
What kinds of products and services does Safeport currently offer?
We pride ourselves on offering the most diverse product selection in Ventura County. We carry everything from pre-packaged flower, joints, cartridges, wax, edibles, tinctures, lotions…the list goes on! We currently offer in-store shopping, delivery, in-store pick up and curbside pickup.
What are your biggest challenges now?
The most challenging aspect of our business is navigating licensing opportunities in cities to grow our business. It is an extremely competitive and expensive process. Another challenge is not being able to take full advantage of the tax code like other businesses, due to federal restrictions.
What do you enjoy about this business?
It’s exciting! We are at the forefront of an emerging industry. There is a ton of opportunity; it feels like we are part of a cultural revolution. Getting into this business we never could have imagined how much we would be able to help our local community. Being local Ventura residents, it feels amazing to be able to give back to our community. We have been able to support organizations like the Boys & Girls Club, Caregivers, Oxnard Sleep Out, National MS Society, Ventura Land Trust, VCMilC (Ventura County Military Collaborative), Habitat for Humanity, Santa Clara River Conservancy, Port Hueneme High School, Santa Clara High School and more!
What’s a typical day like for you?
There isn’t really a typical day for any of us, but that is something that we love so much about our jobs!
Does Safeport have a “typical” customer?
Something that is so special about Safeport is that our customer base is so diverse and so loyal! We have customers of all cultures and all ages. We are like the coffee shop of weed. Everyone loves Safeport!
Where are your operations currently based?
We currently operate a medical and recreational store in Port Hueneme. We are also currently constructing a retail store, distribution center and manufacturing center in Oxnard, as well as our corporate headquarters in Oxnard.
My understanding is that you are hoping to be granted a permit to open a dispensary in the city of Ventura.
Yes! We are currently involved in the licensing process in Ventura. We are awaiting the final decision from city manager Alex McIntyre; we should hear the final decision in August. We hope to have our location at the site of the Salzer’s Video building at 5801 Valentine Road. We have partnered with the Salzer’s family to revitalize this iconic corner, which is often referred to as the gateway to Ventura!
What has the application process been like?
We have been very impressed with the licensing process in Ventura so far. The city took their time creating their ordinance, watching other cities to make sure they did everything the right way, avoiding mistakes other cities made. The city has been very organized and transparent throughout this process. We would be so honored to be able to serve our Ventura community. It has always been a dream of ours to operate a dispensary in Ventura. It is our home, and this community means so much to us.
Some important things the city expects from potential license holders is a strong security presence, neighborhood compatibility, odor control and minimal negative impact on youth in the area. These are just a few of the expectations from the city.
What are some of your plans if Safeport receives a permit for operation in Ventura?
We are so excited about our prospective location at the Salzer’s Video building. Safeport plans to shed a new light on what was once such an iconic corner. We plan on offering an experiential retail environment with ties back to the music industry. At the Ventura location, Safeport will seek to expand our brand into the musical arts. We see a huge advantage in partnering with the Salzer family to build upon the work that they have put into the music industry for the last 50-plus years.
Where do you see things going with Safeport in the next 3-5 years? How about the next decade?
At Safeport we dream big! In the next 3-5 years we plan to open more retail stores, expand our manufacturing and distribution centers, open a cultivation site, launch our Safeport cannabis brand and expand into other states. Our goal for the next decade is to be a household name in the cannabis industry.
Anything else you’d like our readers to know about Safeport?
With the current expansion, Safeport will be looking to hire! Several positions will be opening up: budtenders, receptionists, floor and assistant managers, people to work in manufacturing and distribution and more. People can apply by sending your resume and cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit us at our Port Hueneme location (we’re open seven days a week), or order delivery from the comfort of home at safeportcannabis.com/order-online. We currently deliver to Port Hueneme, Oxnard, Ventura, Camarillo and Santa Paula.
Safeport Premium Cannabis Dispensary, 353 W. Channel Islands Blvd., Oxnard, 805-843-3131, safeportcannabis.com, @safeport_. Open daily, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.