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Friend wonders if gold led to Tampa merchant's death

Salvatore “Sal”  Agostino died during an apparent robbery at his business, Antiques Etc., at 811 N Armenia Ave. Agostino used an electric scooter to get around.

SKIP O’ROURKE | TIMES

Salvatore “Sal” Agostino died during an apparent robbery at his business, Antiques Etc., at 811 N Armenia Ave. Agostino used an electric scooter to get around.

TAMPA — Salvatore Agostino sold antiques for decades. He could value an old coin in seconds and loved collecting clocks and vintage jewelry.

Recently, he began buying gold. A friend wonders if that cost him his life.

Agostino, 73, was shot to death Wednesday afternoon at Antiques Etc., his shop on Armenia Avenue at State Street. The motive may be robbery, police said, noting jewelry was taken.

On the worn fence outside, a yellow sign declares WE BUY GOLD.

That was a new venture for the quiet shop owner, said longtime friend Chuck Carbonell, 52, who owns the nearby Hyde Park Restoration and Repairs.

The two men had talked about going into the gold buying business, but Carbonell hadn't gotten around to posting his sign yet.

Now he won't. He's worried it might have been the reason Agostino was targeted.

"Sal has been in business for years and never had any trouble," Carbonell said. "Now he puts up these signs, and this happens."

Agostino's family said Thursday it was too early to talk. He leaves a wife of many years, Linda Agostino. Back in the '80s they owned restaurants, state records show, including a place called Pizza by Lorenzo.

Carbonell said Sal, as friends called Agostino, got into the antique business about 30 years ago. He knew Agostino back when he ran a shop on Swann Avenue. Agostino later moved to a red brick building on Howard Avenue, where a kitschy pink billboard still stands advertising "Antiques Village."

Neighbors said he had a talent for rehabilitating whatever building he moved into.

"He was really good at fixing up buildings," said Spencer Kass, who runs a realty office across from Agostino's former store on Howard Avenue. "He was the nicest, a very welcoming guy."

About six months ago, Agostino moved to the white block house on Armenia.

A couple times a week, he would drive up to Carbonell's store in his van and point to something he was interested in buying, whether it was stained glass or a clock. He'd resell it at his store.

Theirs was a friendly competition, Carbonell said. He felt paralyzed when he heard Thursday morning that his friend had died.

He doesn't understand why someone would shoot a 73-year-old man who got around in an electric scooter. Agostino had bad legs and trouble walking, Carbonell said.

"Sal was such a good guy," he said. "Someone took full advantage of an elderly, disabled man."

Police aren't releasing many details, simply saying Agostino suffered upper body trauma and that it appears to be a robbery. Detectives are following leads, but police spokeswoman Andrea Davis wouldn't elaborate.

Neighbors at a North Hyde Park Neighborhood Watch meeting Thursday night expressed concerns.

"This could be just an incident or one case," said Robert Allen, the group's president. "But it is gross enough that we have to keep an eye on it."

He urged members to call the police when they spot a suspicious person and to never confront anyone in those situations.

Benjamin Buckley, 56, a building inspector, said he can't remember ever having a crime this vicious in his neighborhood.

"It bothers me," he said.

Times staff writers Robbyn Mitchell and Ileana Morales contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3433.

Friend wonders if gold led to Tampa merchant's death 10/21/10 [Last modified: Friday, October 22, 2010 7:23am]
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