Posted: Thursday, Nov 22nd, 2018

By Ken McAlpine

For 45 years and counting, Patagonia and Ventura continue to grow together

photo courtesy of Patagonia

Ventura and Patagonia — the outdoor company founded by Yvon Chouinard in Ventura in 1973 — both possess a unique alchemy based on simple, but not always simple, things. Do your best work. Do your best play. Do your best to make the world better. And be sure to get salt water on your lips.
Shannon Ellis, a longtime Patagonia employee and Ventura resident, provides a few insights into this perfect marriage.
Ken McAlpine: Patagonia could have settled anywhere in the beginning, and now you could move anywhere. Why did you choose Ventura, and why do you stay here?
Shannon Ellis: Our founder, Yvon Chouinard, was drawn to Ventura for lifestyle reasons. Impressive surf, the opportunity to live in a beautiful place, accessibility to the Sierras, just a day’s drive to mountain and river experiences. They’re the things that drew him here. And they’re the same things that keep us here. Ventura remains unique. It’s still an iconic Southern California beach town that hasn’t really changed. For 40-some odd years, our employees have loved Ventura’s laid-back lifestyle.
KM: How does Patagonia’s corporate culture mirror Ventura’s values?
SE: Patagonia is filled with passionate, dedicated, friendly people. Working hard and playing hard is important to our employees, but so is giving back, and doing everything in our power to preserve the places we love. If I look at my neighbors, it’s the same: People who care and are drawn to this beautiful place where you can balance work and life.
KM: Ventura has always taken pride in its unique style. How do the styles of Ventura and Patagonia mesh?
SE: Patagonia looks and feels exactly the same as it did in the beginning. We’re bigger, but the company attracts the same great people. It has the same funkiness and activism associated with it. I think you can say the same about Ventura. We’ve both gotten bigger, but the underlying vibe remains the same. You know the neon sign that welcomes people to Ventura? I love that sign. It’s so emblematic, an understated welcome to a very special place. Patagonia is understated too. I feel like we blend into a place we really value.
KM: What do you see for the future of the two?
SE: Patagonia will continue to call Ventura home. We’ll continue to grow in a thoughtful, responsible way. Our mission statement is to build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, and use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis. We’ll continue to look at how we can play a role in helping to preserve what makes Ventura and Ventura County so special. A few years ago we started a food market called Patagonia Provisions that is working to be a game changer with regenerative organic agriculture. We hope that will influence local growers. We would love to be able to continue to inspire Ventura and have a positive influence on how Ventura County changes as we both move into the future.

KM: How does Patagonia give back to the community?

SE: Patagonia has a grants program where we pledge one percent of our annual sales to grassroots nonprofit environmental organizations. Since its inception in 1985, we’ve given more than a million dollars to nearly 80 environmental nonprofit organizations in Ventura County. We also invest in small, innovative start-up companies in Ventura. We have one that takes fishing nets and recycles them into skateboard decks and sunglasses. Our employees are also actively involved in the community, whether it’s helping clean up downtown, or working to improve bicycle commuting. We’ve had employees start their own grassroots environmental organizations, like the Ojai Valley Raptor Center, which takes in injured birds of prey from all over California.

KM: How does Patagonia keep connected with the locals?
SE: We use our stores as community and activist hubs. Through our stores we have a variety of events, from movie screenings, to free yoga nights, to volunteer opportunities, to simply providing a venue for local groups to come and make presentations.
KM: How can visitors get the Patagonia experience in Ventura?
SE: The best way is by visiting our stores. The look and the feel of the stores, the products we make, the passionate employees who live and breathe our ethos; you’ll get a great feel for Patagonia. It’s funny too, but I don’t think a lot of people know this is where Patagonia actually started. A lot of people are like, “Oh, this is just a store.” No. This is where it all began.

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