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Uncle Billy left legacy in Newhall

Posted: August 16, 2014 10:52 p.m.
Updated: August 16, 2014 10:52 p.m.

Mary Anne Amitin and her son Aaron stand in front of the building that previously housed Billy's Boardshop until 2013.

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It was a bittersweet moment when Santa Clarita contractor Kevin Schlumpberger began pulling the sign letters off the face of the Newhall building that for more than three decades housed the iconic ski and surf shop, Billy’s Boardshop.

Thirty-four years earlier, Schlumpberger had worked as a laborer helping to build the original store for the Amitin family, founders of Billy’s Boardshop, in 1980.

Now, as a general contractor, Schlumpberger was remodeling the building for a new tenant after the Newhall Billy’s closed in 2013.

But Amitin’s family has a sentimental connection to the store their grandfather built.


Aaron Amitin’s grandfather Cy started the family business 50 years ago. An orphan, Cy dropped out of school in the ninth grade eventually hopping a freight train to California at age 18.

Working a number of odd jobs, including construction on the movie set for “The Wizard of Oz,” Cy eventually connected with people selling clothing out of the back of their truck after he returned from World War II. With that experience, combined with knowledge he learned from local retailers, Cy opened his first store specializing in the sale of Levis and other blue collar work clothes in Montrose in 1950.

In the late 1970s, Amitin’s dad, Alan, and his uncle Billy, got involved in the business. Amitin’s dad convinced Cy to expand the retail business by carrying ski and surf equipment and clothing. It proved very successful, Amitin said.

Uncle Billy, the namesake of Billy’s Boardshop, saw an opportunity to expand the retail business into Newhall, tapping into Cy’s contacts at the Saugus Swap Meet, he said.

“Billy was an incredible athlete and excelled at snow and water skiing, which were the store’s primary business lines for many years,” Amitin said. “Our family took regular ski trips to the mountains throughout California, Utah, Colorado, and even as far as Canada for many years.”

Amitin’s dad, formerly a practicing corporate attorney, was a surfer for a time as well, he said. So he added skateboards and snowboards to the store as the popularity of those sports grew.

The three men became partners.

“If you didn’t rent a ski outfit or board from Billy’s Boardshop then you weren’t really a Santa Claritan,” said Schlumpberger, a lifelong local resident and general contractor for the building.

Newhall Legacy

While Amitin’s dad ran the Montrose store, Uncle Billy ran the Newhall store, living in Canyon Country with his wife and their three children.

“My uncle saw Santa Clarita as a great place to live and do business 35 years ago,” Amintin said. “For the entirety of my family’s ownership of Billy’s in Newhall, he was right.”

But in 1994 Billy died of cancer at the age of 38. Amitin’s grandfather and father bought Billy out of the business when he became too ill to continue working and running the store.

Together, the two older men ran Billy’s Boardshop in Newhall until 2005 when they sold it to the retail store’s long-time manager, Bill Boden.

In July 2013, however, the local Billy’s became a victim of declining customers in the face of the big-box sporting retailers, years of recessionary affects, re-shaping of the historic downtown shopping district and competition from the Internet, store owner Bolden said at the time of the closing.

The Montrose store still exists on the same block, Honolulu Ave., where it originated in 1947, Amitin said. It was sold to its store manager, Tim Sheppard, who runs it to this day.

But for the Amitin family, which still owns the Newhall land it purchased in 1979 and the store the family built in 1980, they still feel an attachment to the area.

Amitin’s grandmother’s brother, Milt Diamond, owned a Western apparel company in the 60s and 70s, Amitin said. It was the Newhall General Store on what was San Fernando Road, now Main Street.

But the closing of Billy’s in Newhall was a momentous event because it had been in the family for 50 years, he said.


“For the foreseeable future, we want we want to continue to invest in this community that he (Uncle Billy) saw so much potential in all those years ago,” Amitin said. “We feel strongly that there’s a great future in Newhall.”

Citing the upcoming expansion of the Disney’s Golden Oak Ranch and several other key development and infrastructure projects planned or in the works, Amitin feels Santa Clarita’s growth as a community is poised to take off over the next five to 10 years.

In the real estate investment and development business himself, Amitin is the executive vice president of New York-based The Domain Companies. Knowing the family’s commitment to the area, he brought in Schlumpberger to rehab Billy’s Boardshop and leased it to new tenant, CrossFit Second Nature.

Considering both owners of the new fitness business in the building are natives of Santa Clarita, Dr. Jeff Bowne and Ryan Golphenee, the family liked the fact that both men are local and give back to the community in a variety of ways, Amitin said. Bowne is a local chiropractor and co-owner of Valencia Sports Medicine, and Golphenee is a firefighter for Los Angeles County.

Bringing Billy’s Boardshop back to life for the new tenants, however, was a project that brought back good memories for contractor Schlumpberger.

“I was 18 years old when I worked for the masonry company building the store,” Schlumpberger said. “And I was 52 years old when I got to take the letters off the top face of the building.”

In the meantime, keeping the former Billy’s Boardshop in the community is meaningful to Amitin. It represents three generations of a family that remained close; and his grandfather’s success in his search for a better life without having had any role models to guide him.

“Given our history in this area, we still feel a very strong connection here and want to be a part of its continued success,” he said. “In a sense, it’s also a way for me and my family to honor the memory of Cy, Alan, and Billy.”


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