Josiah Jenkins looked like a cowboy out of his element on a recent afternoon, sitting at a desk in front of two computer screens at Jedlicka’s Western Wear in Santa Barbara, nearly buried beneath the piles of paperwork that go along with helping run a family-owned business.
Resting on a swivel computer chair just out of reach was his light-colored cowboy hat — a Jenkins staple from an upbringing highlighted by horses in the backyard of a Mission Canyon home and regular cameos in the Santa Barbara Fiesta Stock Horse Show & Rodeo.
A proud smile crossed the 50-year-old’s face when he glanced atop the desk clutter at the 2013 Old Spanish Days & Fiesta poster, which Jenkins designed himself as this year’s El Presidente of the event. Jenkins’ parents, Karen and Si Jenkins, are front and center in the artwork that depicts the couple riding on horses along State Street during the annual Fiesta parade.
“They were surprised,” Jenkins said of his parents’ reactions at the poster’s unveiling last month. “Father was speechless, mother had some kind words. The parade is one of the original events.”
Talking to Jenkins, one gets the sense that tradition is something of a life credo.
Jenkins is a fifth-generation Californian, his family having moved to the area in 1848 during the Gold Rush. He says he’s second generation out of Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, and he graduated from Santa Barbara High School in 1981 — exactly 30 years to the day after his father.
He began working at Jedlicka’s, 2605 De la Vina St., when he was in junior high, and returned to the store a few years after graduation when his parents had taken over ownership. Now, he’s the company president.
In one area, however, Jenkins has made reluctant peace with semi-breaking tradition.
The El Presidente title thrusts Jenkins into the limelight of the 89th annual celebration, whereas every other role he’s played in Fiesta and the accompanying rodeo has been that of a key behind-the-scenes guy.
“I’m my own spokesman now,” Jenkins joked. “Just another day on the job.”
Jenkins has been involved with Fiesta since 1976, and has since worked his way up the ranks to the esteemed position he’s proud to accept. He describes himself as a “cowboy, not a roper” in terms of rodeo events he’s participated in, which include the trail ride and sorting and penning.
Keeping with the cowboy theme, Jenkins is also involved in the Santa Barbara Trailblazers and Los Rancheros Visitadores.
He said he’s especially excited about this year’s Fiesta theme — “Vaqueros y Vaqueras,” or “cowboys and cowgirls” — because he believes it refocuses attention on the family aspect of the event, which will run July 31 through Aug. 4.
“That’s the world I grew up in,” said Jenkins, noting that family and a good work ethic seem harder to come by these days.
After retrieving his cowboy hat and stepping out of his office near Jedlicka’s seemingly endless inventory of cowboy boots, Jenkins seemed much more at home.
The independent retail store has grown to the size of four storefronts, a testament to the family that Jenkins also takes pride in.
“We’re still selling; we’re still here,” he said. “Good product, good employees and loyal customers.”