Bill Ackerman, owner of Bill's Wheels Skateshop.
In 1975 I graduated high school and went on to Cabrillo College, taking Police Science courses to follow in my Dad's footsteps and become a police officer.
In college I played on the the tennis team and ended up getting a job at a local sports shop stringing tennis rackets. Soon after, the sport shop began selling skateboards and I started running the skateboard department.
It was at this time that I got into skateboarding seriously. The sport shop went out of business and that is when I started Bill's Wheels in 1977.
My first location was in Watsonville on East Lake Ave, in a small building that I rented for $125.00 per month with about $500.00 in inventory.
I was there for one year and moved back to the sport shop which had reopened, renting a space from them. In 1979 the sport shop went out of business again, and I found a space no larger than a small bedroom in a alley behind Country Cousins Liquors on Freedom Blvd.
This was home for Bill's Wheels until another business person in town Jack Passey, owner of Passey's Hobby Shop, came to me and said lets combine our business's in one location and split the rent. We found a space in the Crestview Shopping Center on Freedom Blvd., in Watsonville.
After about a year Jack decided to close his hobby shop, leaving me with this huge space with hardly any inventory to fill it. At this time, 1980, I took out my first loan for $5000 to remain at the Creastview Shopping Center.
Word got out and before long a lot of kids were coming from mid-county, Santa Cruz, as well as from Salinas. So many kids were coming from Salinas that I decided to open a store on N. Main in 1986. We were in a small store in the Mission Plaza for 3 years and then moved to the North Main St. Plaza, a 1/2 block away, which was home for the next 11 years.
Over the years, in Watsonville, we would put on demos in our parking lot. Demos that grew and grew to about 400-500 kids attending. We called them Skate Jams. We would set up all kinds of ramps, bring in a flatbed truck and have bands play live on the back of it. We would also build walls out of sheet rock and have local artists flex their graffiti skills. A day of fun in the sun.
We were doing 3-4 of these Skate Jams a year until 1995, when things began to slow down in Watsonville. It was at this time that I looked to Santa Cruz for another location.
With some inventory from Watsonville and a SBA loan from Coast Commercial Bank, the Santa Cruz store was born in Nov 1995, on Soquel Ave.
It was about a year later that the Watsonville store closed after 20 years.
In July 2000 the Sallinas store moved to a bigger and better location in the Santa Rita Plaza, and then again in February 2006 to 25 East Gabilan St. in old town Salinas.
Unfortunately the Salinas store closed in 2012 after 26 years.
Santa Cruz is going strong, and all in all it's been a good 44 years. I look forward to many more years of working with a great bunch of employees at Bill's Wheels. Thanks -Bill