Gatto Cycle Shop celebrating 55th anniversary
George J. Gatto has been president of Gatto Cycle Shop for the past 20 years, but he’s worked for the family business for most of his life and most of the company’s 55-year existence.
“I started cleaning oil spots off the floors and building bicycles” at the age of 11 or 12, said Gatto, now 57. “It’s all I know. I love it.”
Gatto Cycle will celebrate its 55th anniversary with festivities Saturday outside its flagship location in Tarentum. The event will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and feature live music, free hot dogs and fried chicken, a cash bar, trivia and vendors.
Special 55th anniversary shirts will be sold, but customers who spend at least $50 at the shop will get the anniversary shirt for free, according to Gatto marketing manager Ashlea Lovell.
Wood Street between East Sixth and East Seventh avenues will be closed from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Gatto runs the business with his younger brother, Mark, 50, who is vice president and has been around the company his entire life.
The business was founded by their parents, George A. and Loretta Gatto, in 1964.
Gatto said his parents began the business as an auto body shop, and then started selling motorcycles. They moved to Tarentum in 1967.
Gatto said his dad was the salesman, while his mother took care of the numbers. They are both retired and split their time between New Kensington and Florida.
They got out of auto body work in the mid-1970s. Once primarily a Suzuki dealer, they picked up Harley-Davidson in 1981.
“That’s when the business started to grow,” he said. “Harley-Davidson has been one of the keys to our success.”
They bought Three Rivers Harley-Davidson on Route 8 in Shaler in October 2007.
In Tarentum, Gatto Cycle is spread across five complexes, which Gatto said is not an ideal set up.
They bought three houses in the area in 2016, and have torn down two of those, but have not been able to acquire the additional properties needed for a building project.
“We’re out of space. We really need to be under one roof,” he said. “I’d love to stay in Tarentum. Tarentum has been a great community to be a part of.”
They employ about 90 people now, down from a peak of 120.
“We’re running lean and mean,” he said.
They’ve had to change to survive in the age of big-box and online retail. Bicycles, for instance, now make up only a very small part of their business.
“We focus on the items we can carry that people will come into the store to buy,” he said.
Younger people also aren’t taking up motorcycles like past generations that started with dirt bikes and moved on to street bikes. Gatto is hoping newly arriving electric bicycles might help reverse that trend.
Events like the anniversary celebration also are part of what they do to keep afloat.
“It will be a fun day. We try to make the events fun,” Gatto said. “We’re all about motorcycles. We’ll have food and music. It’s about celebrating 55 years.”
Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Brian at 724-226-4701, [email protected] or via Twitter .