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Gus Betat & Son

Greg Gulotta at Gus Betat & Son Bicycles, 1976The original sponsor of the New Orleans Bicycle Club was Gus Betat & Son, a large bicycle shop located on North Broad Street in New Orleans, LA. Greg Gulotta (photo at right, 1976), along with Jim McFadden who was at the time a Philosophy graduate student at Tulane University, were a couple of the driving forces behind the club during the 1970s. Greg was an active racer and was also managing the exciting new "Ten Speed Shop" section of Gus Betat & Son, the family business. During that time, and into the 1980s, the shop became one of the country's top distributors of Campagnolo equipment and was actively importing racing bikes. At one time the local racing community was practically awash in Viner bicycles that the shop imported from Italy and distributed nationally. The shop supplied prizes for practically all of the local races and was the focal point for the early Tour de Louisiana event. Grant Gulotta, Greg's brother, provides some history on the shop below. Greg passed away suddenly on a weekend afternoon in 1981, having done a ride with the club that morning.

A few notes from Grant Gulotta, responding to some questions by a Times Picayune reporter in September, 2011:

NOBC Club Jersey - Original Design"1886 is the year Gus Betat opened his business. He initially sold wood and coal, among other things. 1887 is the year he started in the bicycle business. When we went out of business in April of 1992 we were America's oldest continuing bicycle business. Gus Betat began business at 612 North Claiborne Avenue. The company relocated to 819 North Broad Avenue when the interstate high rise was being built in the early 1960s. The building on North Claiborne actually had a gas pump for Texaco gasoline. Texaco presented Gus Betat with a gold pocket watch commemorating our 50th year in business. The watch dated 1936 was lost in my home during Katrina as were most of our family's photos of the family and of Gus Betat which had closed in 1992. I am grateful that your newspaper has on file the ad we ran in 1910. The Times Picayune money editor John Gin worked for us when he was young, and rode on our cycling team. Fats Domino once bought 8 bicycles from us that he donated to the young children that played by his house. My father tells me that Fats called him and that he and my grandfather, Joseph Christina, re- opened the store late one night so that Mr. Domino could buy the bicycles. This was around Christmas. I am not sure of the year.

Nelson Eddy, Phil Harris, and Alice Faye were among the celebrities that bought bicycles from us. Mayor Moon Landrieu, and Mayor Dutch Morial and his wife Sybill were also customers. When we located on North Broad we became neighbors with the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club which was located across the street. My father always had a fresh painted coconut every year. When I was a teenager the Endymion parade passed every year on North Broad until they changed their route. Some history may clear up how someone named Buddy Gulotta owned a bicycle store named Gus Betat. Gus Betat married a Christina daughter. His sister, a Betat, married a Christina son. Brother and sister married brother and sister. Gus's son (the & son) was Charles Betat. Mr. Charles Betat never married. My grandfather Joseph Christina had a Betat for his mother. Joseph's daughter was my mother Edith Christina. Edith married my father Anthony (Buddy) Gulotta. Believe it or not, this question was one we were asked constantly by customers. Gus Betat and Son sold and at one time made "Tulane" bicycles.

My father said that Gus Betat had greatly admired Paul Tulane and named his bicycle after him. The Tulane line was at one time made by one of three bicycle manufacturers: Schwinn, Columbia, and Rollfast. Gus Betat had a falling out with Mr. Schwinn (the original Mr. Schwinn) over Tulane Bicycles. Schwinn was not pleased that Betat was putting Tulane emblems on their bicycles. It is widely misunderstood that Gus Betat sold only Schwinn. In fact their collaboration ended long before Gus Betat died in 1952.

Gus Betat & Son was sold to my father by Gus's son Charles Betat around 1962. My father is the man that grew the business into what many New Orleanians remember. Under my father Gus Betat & Son began to import bicycles from overseas. The first "English Racers" were actually Raleigh Bicycles from Nottingham England. Many customers were also familiar with "Ten Speeders" like Bottecchia from Italy. I have lost count, but including the above names and Gus Betat track racing bicycles (which were made by my brother Greg and Doug Haddock in 1976), over 30 other bicycle brands were carried at one time or another. My brother Gregory Gulotta ran the company after my father retired. Greg died in 1981 of a heart attack. The business employed our entire family at one time or another. My brother Glenn, and my late brother Gary, as well as myself were all trained in the business. At the time we closed in 1992 Gus Betat & Son, Inc. was both a retailer and wholesaler of bicycles, and bicycle parts and accessories. I thank you for your honoring our business in your newspaper. I will always cherish the memories of working at Gus Betat & Son, and I know I speak for my entire family that I wish we were still in business to serve the many fine people of New Orleans. This year would have been our 125th. "Your Great Grandfather Bought His Bicycle at Gus Betat" was our trademark saying."

Grant Gulotta
Gus Betat & Son