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Profile | Don Wallace

Meet Don Wallace, the man in the big house on Bayshore

Erika and Don Wallace, here at the Gasparilla parade with their son Donnie Jr., have a 13,700-square foot house on Bayshore.

AMY SCHERZER | Times (2002)

Erika and Don Wallace, here at the Gasparilla parade with their son Donnie Jr., have a 13,700-square foot house on Bayshore.

Don Wallace and his family started Lazydays RV SuperCenter in 1976 with $500, a mobile home and two travel trailers. Now, Lazydays, on Interstate 4 east of Tampa, boasts annual sales of $800-million. Wallace, now 59, sold portions of the business in 1999 and 2004 but remains a primary stockholder.

Family: Wife, Erika, 34; two children, Donnie, 9, and Alexa, 7. When Wallace met Erika Jensen, she was his then-wife's niece. The two married in 1995. She was 21; he was 46.

Homes: Hyde Park neighbors fumed when Wallace bought and demolished the historic Swann House on Bayshore Boulevard, then replaced it with a 13,700-plus square foot Mediterranean-style mansion with a gym, wall-sized aquariums and air-conditioned garages for six autos. Erika got a 22-foot by 12-foot closet. Last year's property taxes: $177,113.

In 2007, Wallace bought a sprawling property on Lake Thonotosassa for their next home, expected to be more than 40,000 square feet. The property adjoins the residence of Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and lawyer Bill McBride.

Other properties include a place on an island in Key West harbor and a restored firehouse in Hyde Park.

Parties: Routinely, the Wallaces open their Bayshore home to charity fundraisers, picking up the tab for food, drinks, flowers and valet parking. The family's annual Gasparilla Day party draws 400 people, a coveted invitation. Partygoers gravitate to his exotic car collection.

Big wheels: The rides in Wallace's garages have included Bentley, Lamborghini, Rolls Royce, Porsche, McLaren F1, Enzo, Ferrari and Veyron.

Pet causes: Health care, education and the arts. The Wallaces gave $5-million to the Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute for breast cancer research. They gave more than $1-million to build the Gorrie Coliseum at Gorrie Elementary School. Other beneficiaries: Tampa General Hospital, the University of Tampa, Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Joshua House, the Spring of Tampa Bay and the Lowry Park Zoo, among many.

Sightings: Frequents Mise en Place and SideBern's.

Politics: Doesn't consider himself political, but contributes to campaigns on both sides of the aisle. In the 2006 Florida gubernatorial race, he gave $500 to Democrat Jim Davis and $500 to Republican Charlie Crist. For the 2002 election, he contributed both to Jeb Bush and opponent Bill McBride. That year, he also gave $40,000 to the Republican Party of Florida.

Health: Suffers chronic back pain but doesn't like to talk about it.

Friends call him: Generous, sentimental, trusting, down to earth.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

Meet Don Wallace, the man in the big house on Bayshore 06/11/08 [Last modified: Saturday, June 14, 2008 11:05pm]
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