One of Australia’s longest serving bicycle industry members passed away on 9th November 2019. He was 94 years old.
Norm De Grandi left behind seven children, six of whom work in the iconic business that still carries his name, De Grandi Cycle & Sport in the Victorian city of Geelong.
The business was started in 1929 by Norm’s father George De Grandi. Norm was still a teenager when he went to New Guinea as an engineer in the Australian Army during World War Two. This was to be the only overseas trip that Norm ever made.
After the war he joined the family business, married his wife Winifred, who everyone called Win, and started what would become a very large family, in order: Damian, Mary-Lou, Michelle, Peter, Shane, Tim and Dom. Of these, only Mary-Lou, who is a school teacher, does not work in the family business.
There are also three grandchildren full time in the business and others do school holiday work from time to time.
Win passed away four years ago after the couple had been married for 61 years.
Norm’s son Shane, who runs the bicycle side of the business, said that Norm was still working part time until a few months before he passed away. He was still driving a car until the day before he died and still living in the same family home they’d owned for decades.
Norm took over running De Grandi’s from his father in the early 1950’s. He then started importing lightweight racing bikes and equipment from the UK and later Europe.
“Back then Cecil Walkers, Hillmans and De Grandi’s were the three main names, not just in Victoria, but we had mail order customers Australia-wide,” Shane said. “I remember them distributing dozens of UK cycling magazines in hand-written envelopes.”
“We used to have about five or six full time staff in our old Mercer St store plus some part timers,” Shane continued. “It was solely a bike shop until after my eldest brother Damian, who was a good cricketer, joined the business and started the sports side in 1979.”
In 1994 De Grandi Cycle & Sport moved to their huge present day store in Moorabool St, directly opposite the home ground of the Geelong AFL team.
This also signalled the era in which Norm started handing over to the next generation, although he continued to work in the business, first for a few days each week, then just on Tuesdays in the office, until a few months ago deciding it was time to retire.
De Grandi’s today employs about 53 staff across its bicycle retail, wholesale and general sports business activities.