Jandd Mountaineering Inc., maker of high-quality bags, backpacks and a host of other accessories for the active outdoors, may return to Santa Barbara.
The company founded by then-UCSB student Dave Sisson 20 years ago, packed its own bags and headed south in early 2001 after battling lofty rents and other rising costs on the Central Coast.
Jandd moved its manufacturing across the Mexican border to Tijuana and relocated its wholesale division and headquarters to Vista, in northern San Diego County.
While the bulk of manufacturing will remain in Mexico, Mr. Sisson said he is definitely exploring the possibility of returning the remainder of the company to Santa Barbara, a move which could translate into as many as three dozen new jobs here.
“Jandd is known as being from Santa Barbara,” said Mr. Sisson, who added that his personal desire to return, plus today’s more realistic prevailing rents, meant it is something he is seriously considering.
“Expectations for commercial rents were out of control about the time we left,” he said. “Now there’s a little level of sanity back in the market.”
In addition, Jandd is able to consider such a move now because this week it negotiated a new lease on a different part of its Vista building which gives the company the flexibility of a 90-day out clause.
Mr. Sisson said he is considering opening a small factory/showroom/shop here where a group of highly skilled workers would complete specialty runs and the public could walk in, watch the production process and then buy bags in the retail outlet.
The proposed production and sales showcase, along with associated services such as shipping and the company Web site, could result in around 35 new jobs though many of those would be filled by staff moving back from Vista.
Mr. Sisson said his next move will be to hold exploratory talks with city officials, something he hopes to begin in April.
The purpose of this, he said, will be to check out the feasibility of the proposal and assess how difficult it might be to create a facility like this while still complying with Santa Barbara’s mass of rules and regulations.
Jandd employs about 75 people at two production facilities in Mexico which turn out about 200 types of bags, packs and outdoor accessories.
Mr. Sisson would not comment on company sales but estimates Jandd produces between 600,000 and 700,000 units annually which are sold in more than 1,500 retail outlets across America plus a handful in Canada.