The Tomaso family started a bike shop called “Rich’s Recycled Bikes and More” on Tamiami Trail in Port Charlotte in 2012.
In the last nine years, they’ve attracted a loyal following — so loyal that their customers wanted to help them survive an unexpected attempt by their landlord to throw them out with just a few days notice. They had already given away parts and supplies when a lawyer told them — and the landlord — that it is illegal to end a lease without notice, particularly for model tenants.
So the Tomasos had enough time to find another location nearby, but they had to take out cash advances on their credit cards to make the move and buy back supplies. That move is planned for the coming weeks.
“We’re just in shock what’s happening to that company and that wonderful business,” said loyal customer Gina Roberts.
The Tomasos have also not been able to get the landlord, Civan Ipekci, to repair the property, except he sealed some bees into the structure, resulting in bees pouring out of various locations in the structure, said Michael Tomaso, who runs the business side of things.
A person answering Ipekci’s business phone told The Daily Sun it was the wrong number.
The Tomasos felt overwhelmed, and they told their customers they were considering just retiring, Michael Tomaso said. That’s when customers begged them to stay open, and offered them money.
“Our customers said no we’re not going to let you go,” he said.
Michael had advised his customers, who wanted to give him money, that it would be best to run an official fundraiser rather than just take money. So he has a Gofundme page ready to go. Their target is $25,000, but anything will help, he said.
“Anything that we raise we’re going to put back into the business,” he said.
Some of those customers are also members of the Charlotte County Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, and they told the Tomasos to contact the newspaper, so they did.
“They’re excellent people to work with, and it’s a shame what their landlord has been doing to them,” said one customer, David Dermer.
“Rich does magic with his hands,” said Roberts, of the work Richard Tomaso does on the bikes she and her husband, Gary, bring in. “No one does the job like Rich, and that’s a fact.”
“Most of our customers are low income,” said Michael, and those customers rely on the business to keep their work transportation functioning.
Dermer said he is retired and saves money by not having a car. He bikes everywhere.
“I really need to have my bike man around,” he said.
They also provide free service to the homeless, said Gina Roberts.
“They’re really an institution in this community,” she said.
The Tomasos came to Port Charlotte in 1978 from New Jersey. Mother Gloria worked as a nurse and retired in 2004. Richard worked as a bike mechanic at The Bicycle Center of Port Charlotte for 20 years. Michael was a local code enforcement officer and a video court reporter for Lee County.
They will be closing the old site at 3792 U.S. 41 on Nov. 24. They will open at the new location, 2751-B U.S. 41, on Dec. 7. The new location is between West Tarpon Boulevard and Port Charlotte Boulevard on the west side. The phone number will stay the same, 941-764-6855.
The gofundme link is https://gofund.me/548ed734.
The new shop name will be similar but slightly different: “Rich’s Bike Repairs and More.” That’s because they will not include refurbished bicycles anymore, Michael said. They have too much repair work to keep up with to add the sale of used bikes, he said. Michael also offers print shop assistance, helping customers out who need printing and copying.