Saturday, April 21, 2018
News Roundup

Curtis Larmon, who owned Tampa's oldest furniture store, dies at 83

TAMPA — Curtis Larmon kept regular hours, at home and at the family business he inhabited for 37 years.

He did stretching exercises after his coffee, the antidote for an old back injury, then sit-ups.

By 8:40 a.m. each day, he arrived at Seventh Avenue and 14th Street in Ybor City, where Larmon Furniture has stood since 1931; it is the oldest Tampa furniture retailer still in business.

Mr. Larmon, whose devotion to routine and steadiness helped keep his family business running for 80 years, died Friday as a result of Parkinson's disease, his family said. He was 83.

Mr. Larmon was quiet for a salesman. He knew customers' names and struck deals with many, offering no-credit-check financing and a willingness to bargain on the price. If he was within striking distance, he closed the sale.

"He was a true gentleman," said Jimmy Kalamaras, his son-in-law, who with his wife, Elizabeth, has owned the store since 1992. "I have never heard him say anything negative or derogatory about anybody."

His father, Rubel Larmon, founded the store 81 years ago with business partner David Friday. The store has expanded three times from its original 4,000 square feet, added appliances and electronics to its inventory and livened things up with a little kitsch.

For 15 years or so, a circular red velvet bed complete with a television beckoned from a corner.

"It was like, 'Hey, let's see if we can catch their attention,'" said Kalamaras, 52. "We don't have that kind of stuff anymore," he added.

Mr. Larmon also reached out to customers who might have been turned away elsewhere. Prove that you live here and have an income, you can get store financing.

Playing the role of banker made him work harder to match purchases with pocketbooks.

"A bank will tell you no," Kalamaras said. "We say, 'Hey, why don't you get the living room and the bedroom and hold off on the big-screen TV you wanted?' He was so good at being able to work with customers and figure out what was best for them."

William Curtis Larmon was born in Tampa and graduated from Hillsborough High in 1947. After graduating from business college, he worked as a manager at Holtsinger Motor Co. He joined his father's business in 1955, two years after he married Beverly, a woman he had known since high school.

He bought the business from Rubel Larmon in 1966. In 1992, he sold it to Elizabeth and Jimmy Kalamaras. (A third partner, daughter Cheryl Smith, sold her interest in 1998.)

"The day he said he was gone, he was gone," his son-in-law said. "He said, 'I've done my time.' "

The Kalamarases opened another location on W Waters Avenue in 2007.

His family coaxed Mr. Larmon back on special sale days. The cameo appearances pleased longtime customers, some of whom always insisted on dealing with him directly.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248.

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