The Newhall Aquarium and Learning Center needs immediate funding or it won’t last.
A new GoFundMe page for the nonprofit organization on Arch Street indicates a fundraising goal of $75,000 to pay past due rent, utilities and other costs related to animal care, feeding, housing, staff pay, aquarium maintenance, marine creature rescue and more. As of the publishing of this story, $140 had been raised since the page was created on August 14.
Susan Dorman, Santa Clarita resident and mother of three, said she first visited the aquarium only recently with her kids and learned the aquarium was struggling to stay afloat.
“I found out about it maybe a few years ago, but it had limited hours,” Dorman said in a recent phone interview with The Signal. “I actually went there about two weeks ago and I met the owner. He’s the nicest guy and he’s trying to do a good thing for the community.”
According to Tony Taymourian, who opened the Newhall Aquarium in 2015, the facility was originally for building and cleaning aquariums as part of his business, Beautiful Scales LLC., which specializes in aquarium and pond design, installation and maintenance. Due to the demands of his day job, where Taymourian travels the greater Los Angeles area, working on aquariums for various businesses and often celebrities, he can only invite the public into his nonprofit aquarium from 3 to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
“It was never intended to be an aquarium, museum, exhibit or whatever it is right now,” Taymourian told The Signal. “I initially got offered that space for my other business.”
He said he somewhat fell into aquarium and pond work. While he has a degree in marine biology from the University of California, Santa Barbara, getting a job in that field after college was a challenge. He worked at a small aquarium in Manhattan Beach, but there wasn’t much money to be made there, he said.
“After a couple of years,” Taymourian continued, “I basically walked away from it.”
He did odd jobs unrelated to marine biology, made some money, but he wasn’t happy.
“Years went by where I wasn’t doing anything marine biology-related,” he said. “Then, one day, I just thought to myself, ‘This is ridiculous. I need to go back to it. This is what I know. I need to go back into my field.’ And I looked for a job and, what do you know, someone was hiring for aquarium maintenance and installation, which is way different than being a marine biologist, but it still involves it, so I went with that.”
Taymourian worked with other companies and learned the trade, and about 12 years ago, he decided to start his own business. That’s when Beautiful Scales LLC was born.
At first, he was building and maintaining aquariums, using his home here in Santa Clarita as space to work on some of the aquariums. But eventually he got such a good deal on a facility behind the railroad tracks in Newhall that he couldn’t pass it up.
He began working on his tanks there, and every so often he’d have a client with a fish or water animal that outgrew an aquarium or couldn’t get along with other creatures it shared space with, and these people would just hand the animals over to him.
“I ended up keeping them,” Taymourian said, “and they kind of became my pets.”
As his business grew, he found himself longing for the work he did at that aquarium in Manhattan Beach.
He opened the Newhall Aquarium with fish and other water animals he’d received from clients, and with his own money, he added other creatures he thought people would want to see. Over the years, he poured at least $100,000 of his own money into the aquarium.
And while he only opens the doors to the public for a few hours on weekends, and during the week when he can, he takes fish out into the community as part of an educational outreach program at schools and local events in Santa Clarita and surrounding Los Angeles areas, allowing for hands-on learning experiences that include interaction with animals in touch tanks.
“I’m doing everything as a single person,” Taymourian said. “And not wanting to charge tickets at the door.”
That’s right, the cost to visit the Newhall Aquarium is nothing.
“We suggest $5 a person donation,” Taymourian said. “But if they don’t have that, I’m not going to refuse them to enter … Anyone that wants to learn about marine life will get to come in and check out whatever we have.”
The aquarium is home to about 50 species of tropical marine life, including sharks, seahorses and jellyfish. Taymourian scaled down his supply about 50% since the pandemic, but it’s getting harder to even maintain that.
Dorman said she thinks small donations aren’t going to keep the Newhall Aquarium going.
“We went in there and there’s a little donation jar, and the recommendation is $5, but he doesn’t even say anything about it,” she added. “It’s just this little jar. It’s discreet, like kind of on the side. So, I put some money in there and I’m like, ‘You know what? This place really has some potential, but he needs some help.’”
Taymourian said it’s not small donations from the general public he’s really after.
“I want to reach out more to bigger corporate business companies that are looking for charitable organizations to sponsor,” he added. “I’m not trying to collect $5, $10, $20 from the average citizen that doesn’t have that money anyway.”
Taymourian said he hopes local businesses will answer the call. Dorman hopes they will, too.
“If I want to take my kids to the Aquarium of the Pacific (in Long Beach), look how far it is,” she said. “But it’s cute to have a little place like this to take your kids.”
The Newhall Aquarium, located at 24631 Arch St., is open from 3 to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, or during the week by appointment. For more information, go to NewhallAquarium.weebly.com. For updates and news about the aquarium, go to Facebook.com/NewhallAquarium. The GoFundMe campaign can be found at bit.ly/3pVmbK2.