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Landmark Acton business up for sale

The Barnyard is home to quaint, quirky wagons and western memorabilia

Posted: January 16, 2009 9:37 p.m.
Updated: January 17, 2009 12:00 p.m.

Acton's The Barnyard located off the Crown Valley Road exit off the southbound 14 freeway on Sierra Highway is a 1.5 acre piece of land with many western antiques collected by owner Dennis Neice.

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Editor's note: Our Valley is a weekly story about interesting or quirky people, places or things in and near the Santa Clarita Valley. Send story ideas to vlovato@the-signal.com.

Drive by The Barnyard and you'll most likely do a double take.

If it's not the life-size fiberglass horses that catch your eye, it might be the replica of the iconic Bob's Big Boy restaurant statue.

Step into the Acton antiques store and walk the rows of Western memorabilia that include hundreds of wagons and buggies, more than a thousand wagon wheels and a mix of lanterns, saddles, plows and pumps.

"Most people say it's better than Knott's Berry Farm," said The Barnyard owner Dennis Neice.

Probably because The Barnyard - which sits on a two-acre lot near the Crown Valley Road exit off state Highway 14 - is home to retired and deteriorating statues of cowboys and cowgirls from the Western-style theme park.

For 25 years, Neice, 63, built The Barnyard's reputation as a place where people in the movie business can buy historic memorabilia from the late 1800s and early 1900s.

"It's the biggest selection of wagons and wagon wheels anywhere," Neice said.

The cost for a wagon begins at $1,650. Fiberglass animals run for at least $450.

Neice's wagons and wagon wheels, the highlight of the collection, represent his passion for "old things."

"There's something peaceful about them," he said. "It shows a time when it's more simpler. I don't think it was easier."

Neice recently put The Barnyard up for sale.

"It's time to move on," he said. "I don't want to get so old where I'm stuck here."

Neice moved to the San Fernando Valley after "running away" from Kentucky at 15. He attended classes in Van Nuys and taught himself how to read and write.

He worked in the restaurant industry building elaborate restaurants until he found the property in Acton.

He moved to nearby Sand Canyon and bought a tractor to clear the hilly, dirt land and set up The Barnyard.

The aging tractor sits at the entrance to the store.

Over the years, Neice built relationships with clients and wholesalers across the nation who specialize in Western memorabilia.

"I don't think there is another store like this anywhere," he said.

Plus, he generates his own energy for The Barnyard through wind and solar power.

Neice buys deteriorating artifacts and restores them and makes his own items.

His most recent accomplishment is restoration of a rare Studebaker chuckwagon.

Neice said his top clients are in the movie business. They stop by to purchase authentic or restored props for the next Western flick.

But the store manages to draw homeowners who just want to decorate their abodes with Western stuff or fiberglass farm animals.

P.K. Jones first noticed The Barnyard 15 years ago.

Over the years, he's purchased several wagons, a bunch of wagon wheels, bells and a mailbox to decorate his Apple Valley property and give the home "atmosphere."

Jones formed a friendship with Neice, referring to him as a "really nice guy" and a "really helpful" person.

"His place is like stepping back in time," he said. "It seems like I'm always discovering something new."

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