In a hot room that smelled like rubber tires, an auctioneer sputtered numbers into a microphone. People circled, hoping to find a good deal.
One of them was Dan Smith, a St. Petersburg resident who went to the Flying Fish Bikes liquidation sale on Sunday afternoon searching for a marked down mountain or road bike. He’d never been to the store before and usually just buys online.
“It’s always sad when a small businesses closes, but it happens for many different reasons,” he said.
Flying Fish Bikes, located at 2409 S. MacDill Ave. in Tampa, closed and purged their inventory this week. A second location closed years ago. The local store had been open since 1962, initially as Dud Thames bicycle shop, according to the shop’s Facebook page. On Sunday, all of the store’s nearly 10,000 square feet of shiny new bicycles, helmets and clothes were marked with numbers while people put in bids.
The former owner of the store, Francis Kane, could not be reached for comment.
Susan Campana, 45, said she had often visited the store with her husband. Both are avid cyclists, but Campana said biking around Tampa, and even her home in Wesley Chapel, is dangerous. She thinks that may be why the store faced troubles.
Campana liked being able to come into the store and see the equipment herself. She said she often asked sales associates for advice.
“That’s a big deal and you will lose that,” she said. “That one-on-one interaction with the person who owns it.”
In 2013, Kane filed a lawsuit against Giant Bicycle, Inc., a California company that had partnered with the store for years. The suit said a Giant Bicycle representative convinced Kane to order $120,000 worth of the company’s bikes and that Giant Bicycle would help market the bikes for sale, like similar arrangements in the past.
Soon after the bikes were bought, Giant Bicycle opened a store less than two miles away from Flying Fish Bikes, putting them in direct competition. Most of the bikes weren’t sold, and Kane sued for fraud. The case went to federal court.
Flying Fish won the case and Kane was awarded more than $3 million by a jury in 2015.
A former employee, Jeremy Quijano, said most people in the area cycling community knew Flying Fish would shutter soon. He said with the amount of inventory they had, unless the store was sold, the owner would “have to offload it.”
Quijano now owns a cycling and sports store called Kona Swim Bike Run in Wesley Chapel. He said Flying Fish Bikes had been a staple in Tampa Bay for decades, but its closing means more “piece of the pie” for other local owners.
“Mismanaged business practices kind of led to the downfall of a solid staple in the Tampa Bay area,” he said.