CHARLOTTE, N.C. (BRAIN) — Sandy Nicholls will be leaving the Gita Sporting Goods offices in Charlotte for one last time Feb. 24 after 39 years working for the distributor/importer of Italian cycling goods.
“It is with bittersweet emotion that I am announcing my retirement and bidding farewell to my current position at Gita Sporting Goods, Ltd. I have thoroughly enjoyed my tenure here and am a richer person for the experiences it brought and the people, like you, that I’ve met,” Nicholls told friends in an email Wednesday. “I will miss the daily interactions that I have with many of you, but hope to not lose touch. I want to thank all of you for making my time at Gita fun, fulfilling and gratifying. Now, I look forward to the next chapter of my life and the adventures to come.”
Nicholls, who turned 65 in January, was the first employee of what was then a one-man operation back in 1978 headed by Giorgio Andretta. Currently his title is marketing director, but Nicholls has done a little bit of everything in his nearly 40-year run with Gita, from sales to purchasing, shipping, receiving and importation. From a two-man crew, Gita has grown to nearly 20 employees and an outside rep force.
"Sandy's decision will bring to a close a remarkable 39-year career at Gita," Andretta said. "We are at the same time both happy and sad to bear this news. His impact on the growth and direction of Gita has been significant since day one. It has not only been a working relationship but a very close personal one as well. I consider Sandy a very good friend and confidant. We have experienced many changes and growth within the business, travelled thousands of miles together, shared pizza and vino, laughter, and good times. I wish him all the best in this next chapter."
Andretta started Gita in the early 70s in Hamilton, Ontario. In 1978 he moved Gita to Charlotte, a transportation hub. The business then was located in a loft in a warehouse and distributed Diadora athletic shoes. Gita was the earliest importer/distributor of Pinarello, a brand it distributed in the U.S. since 1973, as well as Sidi and Duegi shoes. Gita also distributed other brands such as De Rosa and Eddy Merckx through the years.
Nicholls, along with his brother in law, owned a bike shop in Davidson, North Carolina, in 1973 called Davidson Lightweight Cycles during the bike boom specializing in European road bikes. “It was the first time there were a lot of European bikes brought into the country,” he said.
His shop carried brands like Fiorelli, Mercier, Delacroix and Mercian Cycles. “At that point, the entry level bikes sold for $140,” Nicholls recalled. “There was so much demand for them that you got what you could get. You might be able to get this brand this month, then they were sold out and you had to get a different brand.”
He met Andretta while working for another shop in Charlotte.
“I always liked bikes. When I was in college, my sister and her husband starting working at a bike shop in New Orleans where they were going to school. They came home that summer and introduced it to me,” Nicholls remembered. “I said, bring me one of those bikes. At that point I hadn’t really seen an adult 10-speed bike other than a Schwinn Varsity or Continental and had no idea.” The bike they brought back was a Libertas road bike, from a Belgian company. Nicholls upgraded it within a year.
As for his plans for retirement, Nicholls said, “That’s a good question I don’t have a good answer to. I hope to volunteer some and just kind of lay low for a little bit and see what happens. Hopefully I’ll get to ride my bike more. It’s a big fallacy in the industry that you work in, that you get to ride more,” he said, laughing.