Brad Jarvis, an “business incubator” in St. Johns
ST. JOHNS – “I love St. Johns,” said Brad Jarvis. “It has been good to me and my family.”
A third generation St. Johns’ son, Jarvis grew up in St. Johns. His father was the elementary school teacher and his mother was a a stay-at-home-mom.
Like many kids who grow up in small towns, when they graduate high school, they head off to college, go to work in a big city, get married, and have children.
It is almost the American Dream, but absence often does make the heart grow fonder, and once those from rural small town America get to the family stage, they yearn for their roots, or a place like it. They want to raise their children like they were raised.
Such is the story of Brad Jarvis.
With an entrepreneurial spirit embedded in him at an early age, Jarvis said, “I never knew what I wanted to be. I just knew I wanted to work for myself. You can either make yourself do the hard things so someone else makes the money, or you can do the hard things for yourself. Either way, you are going to do them.”
After attending Eastern Arizona College in Thatcher where he met Shauna Lee Flake, they got married and began their lives in the Valley. Jarvis was on his way to becoming an Investment Manager.
Jarvis went into the water and ice and ice cream business in Chandler and, though he says it was scarey going back to where you were raised, the family chose to make the transition to St. Johns.
In 2003 Jarvis bought St. Johns Ice Company, developed it and sold it in 2008.
In 2009 he partnered with Claryce and Karson Crosky, and they built the Gas-N-Go, a 24 hour gas and convenience store, anchored by an El Cupidos Express on W. Cleveland.
Jarvis and the Croskys had grown up together in St. Johns. Neither had ever been in a partnership with anyone, but they found themselves a perfect fit to do business together. The Croskys were a little younger than he and Shauna Lee, but they discovered they were a good fit.
“We both have things that complement each other,” said Jarvis. “One party does not work less than someone else. Neither of us thinks we are entitled. They like to work behind the scenes.”
Their partnership has proven successful, such that they joined forces again in October of last year to buy the Whiting Quick Stop, implementing changes for the better right away.
They had hoped to find someone to lease the kitchen at Whitings where there had been just pizza. Within a month, they opened the grill as Whitings Quick Stop Burger Generation with a menu that offers items not already found in the area. Justin Weller, a former Apache County Deputy Sheriff, designed the menu which encompasses fried chicken, gourmet hot dogs, tilipia, and even an eight ounce steak. Where there was only takeout before, customers now have a choice. Jarvis brought in six tables and 24 chairs to accommodate the customers.
Plans are already on the drawing board for more upgrades at the Quick Stop.
Jarvis says he is always either, “Working on work, or thinking about working on some new scheme.”
In fact when he sold the ice company and the cost of ice went up, Jarvis crushed his own, bagged it and sold it to his customers as a perk for only a dollar.
In 2007 when Mahai Burlea, the first Romanian to get a baseball scholarship, came to Eastern Arizona College, he dated a girl from St. Johns. Burlea worked for Jarvis’ ice company, and through that relationship, Jarvis made his way to Romania and wound up owning a metal fabrication company. He partnered with an Italian who is now Burlea’s brother in law.
“Business under communism is different,” said Jarvis. “It is more of a social experiment. I kind of like the idea of knowing guys are working while I am sleeping, and then I am working while they are sleeping. It is like work is going on 24 hours a day.”
“The business takes care of itself. This year I am looking at importing over here.”
Jarvis has been to Romania several times on behalf of the business, and for pleasure. He loves the castles and history of the Turks and Romans. He has been in Dracula’s castle and likes the smaller castles. He described the feeling of despair one feels as they go down into the dungeons. He loves the salt mines, the old weaponry and the monasteries of the 14th Century with their beautiful mosaics on the wall. He marvels at how through the wars they remain untouched.
On the local level, Jarvis, like most of the folks in St. Johns, dabbles a bit in farming. He has 20 acres grows alfalfa, has cows and chickens and tractors, and calls it fun.
He and Shauna have six kids, four girls and two boys. The kids are learning about work and small town life from their parents.
The kids do not just go in and get something when they go in to either of the businesses.
“If they want something, they can work for it,” said Jarvis. “They learn to work here. If they come in, they have to pay like everybody else for what they want.”
Mom is also a good example. Not only is Shauna Lee a crafter, but she is known all around for her baking skills. Every other day she makes batches of oatmeal with craisins, cowboy, peanut butter, old fashioned molasses, pudding cookies with M&Ms, and “Cracked Sugar Cookies” for both the Gas-n-Go and the Quick Stop. One cookie is about the size of three regular cookies.
It is said around St. Johns that the guys from Navopache Electric are addicted to those “Crack Sugar Cookies.” They refer to them as just “crack cookies” because they are so addictive. If they go and they have run out of the cookies, there is trouble.
Jarvis is well aware the City of St. Johns depends on the power plant, the government and schools for jobs to survive. The population of St. Johns is 3800.
“I have seen people struggle and have ideas that did not work, and I have seen people come and go.”
“You have to know your area and your customers. We have not re-invented the wheel.”
“We do not sell alcohol, tobacco or lottery tickets in our stores, and we shut down on Sundays. The people appreciate it.”
Jarvis welcomes competition. “It makes you stronger, makes for a better community,” said Jarvis.
“If someone else comes in, it just makes me be aware of what I should be doing.”
Though Jarvis will no doubt be thinking of new ways of branching out to make his home-town better for his family, and his neighbors, or anyone passing through, Jarvis’ goal is to “get our kids grown.”
Brad and Shauna Jarvis came back to the right place to do that.
St. Johns is billed at the Town of Friendly Neighbors, a Close Knit, Family First Community.
Living his dream of working for himself, and making a difference in his community for his family and the people who live there, or just pass through, Brad Jarvis has attained success in small town America. Brad Jarvis is a “Mover & Shaper.”