“They thought he might want to have it,” Michelle Calonge-Haskins, Joe’s wife, told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay.
The spot was called “Tampa Cycle Company” back then. Reporter Paul Guzzo says the shop moved from downtown to Franklin Street, and then to Tampa Street, before finally landing in the Heights. Haskins waited about 20 years after buying the shop to rename it.
The business has been around in one form or another since at least 1916, making it a contender for one of the oldest continuously operated businesses in the City of Tampa. For as long as the Haskins name has been on it, the shop’s had a reputation for serving the kind of working class cyclists who use their bikes as their main mode of transportation between where they lay their heads and where they make money to put food on the table.
Since what feels like forever, Haskins’ name has been a fixture at the corner of Florida and Columbus Avenues—but that changes this weekend. Beneath the “Joe Haskins Bicycle Shop” sign located at 2310 N Florida Ave. is another that thanks the community, which it served for 62 years.
“The time has come for us to retire,” it adds. On social media, the Joe Haskins Bicycle Shop says its last day is Dec. 17.
“We intend to honor that wish,” she added.
But last week, she elaborated and said that before his death, Haskins did talk about selling the building to the owner of the building across the street.
“The gentleman did not want to give Joe what he wanted for the property,” she told CL. After Haskins’ passing, the gentleman changed his tune, and offered her what her late husband wanted. That started the ball rolling on the retirement plans. Calonge-Haskins declined to share the final selling price, but did say the owner, “needs the parking lot for his businesses across the street, and I believe he’s going to rent the building out.”
No one is sure what will eventually happen with the property, but Calonge-Haskins is very clear that her husband, who she married in 2012 after being a longtime customer and then part-time employee of his, would want her to retire. In fact, he was in the process of doing the same before he passed. On the day he died, Calonge-Haskins was at the shop, but left to see him at the hospital. “He had a heart attack and died right there in my arms,” she said.
Moreover, since Haskins’ death, Calonge-Haskins’ daughter, Brittany Calonge, has been running the business and making repairs. The only way she can really stay away from the front desk is if Calonge-Haskins comes in to help greet customers. That’s not an option, especially as Calonge-Haskins continues to get treatment for Degos, a rare arterial disorder that restricts the flow of blood to affected areas. Brittany, Michelle said, is contemplating looking for a job that might include benefits, maybe even weekends and holidays off.
“We can’t do that as a small business. People don’t understand, we’re not Walmart—I don’t have six other employees lined up,” Calonge-Haskins explained. She did say that many of her regular customers are wondering what Brittany will do next.
“I’ve had people say that they will follow her wherever she goes,” she said. “If she decides to stay in the bicycle business, anybody that hires her is going to get a ton of customers.”
“I’ve seen three grown men cry in the last month. We’ve got several customers that are not taking this well at all,” she said.
Undoubtedly, many of those customers have told stories about Haskins, something that’s happened daily, more or less every hour, since his passing two years ago. Calonge-Haskins doesn’t have the right words to explain it, but admitted that at times, it can be hard to have constant reminders of her husband.
“I mean, when I come home I love the reminders. I have pictures everywhere, but at the shop, you’re helping people, and you’re trying to picture Joe doing this or that—it puts a smile on your face, then you’re also sad,” she said. “Brittany is there all day long. She loves to hear the stories, and when customers go out, we talk about the stories, but walking in that building for both of us is kind of sad.”
That aforementioned plaque with Joe’s name on it now hangs in Calonge-Haskins’ bedroom; the chainlink fence outside her Lutz home also features the letters “JH.”
If the “Joe Haskins Bicycle Shop” sign does eventually go down, Tampa will have one less reminder of a man who kept the city moving forward. Even so, the name and legacy of a family that kept Tampa’s blue collar bicyclists on the road for more than six decades won’t fade soon—even if this really is the end of the road.