The first thing you notice when you enter Dan Block’s Walsingham Road bike shop are bikes and bike parts.
Tires and frames and tubes and chains are strewn about like tree limbs following a summer storm, adding to the character of a shop that has been in the same spot adjacent to the Pinellas Trail for more than 25 years.
is a throwback to businesses of yesteryear, when owners knew where everything was without using an inventory program and could recite their customers’ names without consulting a database.
“Years ago an ex-girlfriend of mine cleaned up my old shop while I was away. I told her not to come near the shop for a month,” the affable 54-year-old recalls. “I was so mad because I couldn’t find a thing!
“I only have one person to impress, and you’re looking at him.”
He might not have a spotless shop or a tolerance for reorganization, but Block does possess certain qualities that are all too rare in the retail world these days: honesty, personality and a love for what he does.
From a Necessity to an Obsession
Block was the youngest kid in his Illinois high school’s graduating class, so he was always using a bike to get around while his classmates were driving cars.
“My bicycle always started, and I always had money, so it was fine with me,” he reasons.
A stint working at a junkyard found him buying used bikes by the pound, and soon he was creating hybrids from parts and selling them to friends.
Shortly after moving to Florida in 1978, Block purchased a bike shop nearby in Seminole, and a few years later he bought his current shop for its close proximity to the recently opened Pinellas Trail.
"I said, 'Man, you're an idiot if you let someone else move in there and eat your lunch'," he says.
Despite not having advertised for more than 20 years, Block has a steady stream of loyal customers, especially during season. The reasons they keep coming to the cluttered little shop are Block’s generosity, his intimate knowledge of cycles and his bird.
Why a Bird in a Bike Shop?
“She literally flew into the window one day about seven years ago while I was feeding bread to the crows,” Block says of his African gray, Scarlett. “When nobody claimed her, I adopted her.
"I had a dog for 14 years. But the dog didn't talk. This one tells me when it's time to leave every day."
Scarlett goes to work with Block every day — she even has her own bike — and he says some customers come in just to see to her, which is fine with him.
"She's on digital cameras in five or six countries," he states.
Whether they come for the bird or for the excellent service Block provides, he says he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
“I love what I do," he says. "I meet people I would never meet. Plus, it puts food on my table. I don’t need anything else.”
Address: 11561 Walsingham Road
Hours: 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. daily