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Billy Martin's Boutique celebrates 31st birthday
30
Dec '09
Billy Martin's, a wholly owned subsidiary of Real American Brands, Inc., is celebrating its 31st year anniversary this week, said CEO Doug Newton, who founded the western boutique along with New York Yankee manager, Billy Martin in 1978.

"It's been a non-stop ball for 31 uninterrupted years," said Newton, "since Billy and I started selling western duds to eastern dudes in a tiny boutique just off Madison Avenue on 69th Street in New York City. Billy left the business in 1982, but his name and I stayed behind.

"Billy said the idea to open a western store was my idea," said Newton, "but if we became a success, it would be his idea. Actually, it was Mickey Mantle -- Billy's best friend -- who deserves the real credit.

"A few months earlier, on Old Timer's day, George Steinbrenner, the team's unpredictable owner, announced he was bringing Billy back to manage the Yankees for the 1980 season. To celebrate, Mickey, Billy and I met up in the back room of PJ Clarke's -- an historic Manhattan watering hole that by rights should have had saw-dust on the floor.

"Mantle was wearing cowboy boots because he was an Oklahoman and country boy at heart. I wore them because I came from Colorado, and Billy wore boots because Mickey did.

"That afternoon, more than a hundred well-wishers sauntered by our table, hoping to catch an autograph or two from these 'damn Yankees,' when Mickey began to notice that not a single one of them was wearing boots. This gave him a brain storm.

"Based on a study he did on a cocktail napkin, Mickey figured that if we opened a western store in the heart of Manhattan, just imagine how many boots we could sell. Whew! The possibilities were unlimited," he said.

"And when you add in 'extra sales and profits' from western shirts, belts, buckles and hats -- Billy chimed in -- we could be on easy street and George Steinbrenner, his boss and nemesis, can go herd cats, or something.

"Right off the bat, we did great," Newton said, "and it didn't hurt that we caught a little lightning in a bottle as the urban cowboy rage swept the country and made its way across the globe. Soon, famous musicians, actors, athletes, writers, directors, comedians, royalty -- even a couple of world leaders -- were coming through the door.

"They were all looking for a small piece of the Old West on the upper east side of the Big Apple.

"From Dylan to the Dixie Chicks, Bono to Bibi Netanyahu; Madonna to Mikhail Gorbachev; Prince to Princess Diana; Sheryl Crow to Whoopi Goldberg -- no matter what their age, sex, race, religion, politics or national origin," Newton said, "they all seemed to share a love for America's roots, culture and western lifestyle.

"One of our regulars was Bruce Springsteen. On the cover of his album, 'Born in the USA,' he is wearing a Billy Martin belt. Bruce later gave us the idea to trademark the words 'Born & Bred in the USA.'

"When Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver tied the knot, they selected sterling silver western-style belt buckles for all the groomsmen and bridesmaids in their wedding. (Maybe someday Arnold could run for president if he was born in the USA.)


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