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Sports retailer that started in Ceres in 1955 to close after six decades
• Casualty of big box stores, online retailers
Bilsons is no more
After 66 years in business, sporting goods retailer Bilson’s is calling it quits. The business started in Ceres in 1955, later relocated to the corner of Fourth and North streets in Ceres and ultimately at 201 Lander Avenue in Turlock.

Bilson’s Sport Shop – a business that began 66 years ago in Ceres before it moved to Turlock – is preparing to close its doors, unable to compete with ecommerce and bigger box stores.

The well-known shop was opened in 1955 by William Bilson in a cramped space in what is now Alfonso’s Mexican Restaurant on Lawrence Street. The long building also housed a dry cleaner, an attorney and the courthouse with Judge Olson. In 1958 the business moved into half of the block building at the southeast corner of Fourth and North streets in Ceres now occupied by the Ceres Chamber of Commerce. The business later moved to Turlock where it has been operating at 201 Lander Avenue. In 1997, Bill Bilson handed the business off to his son, Brad, and friend Steven Moe. After decades of a successful co-ownership, the rise of online retailers and continued supply chain shortages have led the team to call it quits.

Bilson acknowledged that stepping away from the business his father built will be a bittersweet experience.

“What I will miss the most is the generations of customers we’ve been able to serve,” said Bilson. “I have been here since I was 14 years old and still have customers come in to talk about my dad. My dad taught me everything about this business and I will miss being able to pass that knowledge on to my customers.”

Bill Bilson passed away last year at age 92.

As part of the closing process, Bilson’s will be having a massive going out of business sale, which will take place over the course of two days this week. Every single piece of sporting goods, apparel, fixtures, equipment and store supplies must be sold, with items being discounted up to half off.

The sale will begin today in a private session taking place from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. The general public will have an opportunity to take advantage of discounted items on Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Leading up to the two days of blowout sales, the store will remain open during its regular hours which is 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Despite their plans to close, Bilson’s ensured that all team sports orders will be fulfilled.

“We’ve been in business for too long, and your business is far too important to us,” the store said in a recent social media post.

The store also encourages customers to visit their website,, and subscribe to emails as they will be providing important updates regarding the store closure.

“To all our regular customers I’d like to say thank you. I’ve truly enjoyed serving you and appreciate your support over the years,” Bilson said. “To all my new or soon-to-be new customers, I’d like to say, ‘welcome.’ To all my customers, I look forward to helping you enjoy the savings as I embark on my final sale ever.”

– Jeff Benziger contributed to this article.