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Bello’s bows out

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Bello’s Sporting Goods, a downtown San Luis Obispo institution since 1945, will soon close. Owner Tom Bello said that starting this week he’ll sell off the rest of his inventory and will then sell the Monterey Street building.

“You just reach a place where you want to spend as much time with your family while you can,� Bello said of his decision.

“My mother and father started this place in 1945. At that time I was 9 years old. I’ve been full-time since 1959. I originally came back here to help my folks out. I didn’t know if I was going to stay.�

Today, he still runs the store with his wife Caroline and son Clarence. His daughter Gina occasionally helps out too.

In recent years, Bello made headlines when he clashed with Cal Poly over the use of the university’s logo. For decades, Bello’s family sold materials that they’d printed with the school’s emblem and name. But in the late 1990s school officials started a long battle with the sporting goods store over whether Bello’s should be allowed to continue that practice.

Despite rulings by local and federal judges, that issue has never been resolved. And with the store’s impending closure, Bello said he doesn’t know what’s going to happen.

He’d rather talk about the children he’s seen come through his family’s store, the ones who bought equipment from him as youngsters and now bring their own families to the store.

“You start seeing the second and third generations and it makes you realize how much time has gone by,� Bello said.

— Abraham Hyatt

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