Gary Strahm was the kind of guy who would sell you a bicycle part for $2, even if it cost him $3.50.
All the kids in the neighborhood knew that the Royal Cyclery bicycle shop owner would pump air into their tires for free and that he was the man in Hawthorne to see if you wanted to get a good deal on a bike.
No one could say enough nice things about Strahm, so on Wednesday the customers who patronized his 20-year-old store stopped by throughout the day to bring flowers, cards and candles to pay tribute to the man who was shot and killed when his store was held up Monday night.
"I won't leave until Gary is put to rest," said Ronnie Manson, a 33-year-old customer from Lawndale who met Strahm when he was a youth and had a flat tire.
Manson hasn't left the store since Tuesday when he learned that Strahm had been murdered.
"I wanted to be here for the family and help reclaim the streets from the people who did this."
Strahm, 59, was shot in the chest when two men held up the victim and his son in the store Monday night, police said. Strahm had already closed the shop when two men knocked on the door at 7:20 p.m. claiming that they wanted to buy a bicycle. Strahm let them in.
According to Hawthorne Lt. Arvid Krueger, soon after the men entered the store they ordered Strahm's son, Shaun, 38, to lie face down on the floor.
The robbers ordered Gary Strahm to hand over the money in the cash register, about $300, then shot him.
"He willingly gave them the money," Krueger said. "There was no reason for them to shoot him."
Strahm moved to Hawthorne 20 years ago and opened the bicycle shop, family friend Heather Shipley said. Working with his wife, Judy, and son, he had one of the oldest and biggest bicycle shops in the city.
"The store was his livelihood and the family probably won't open it up again," said Shipley, who has lived with the family for four months.
A sign outside the store reads: Royal Cyclery will be closed indefinitely due to the brutal murder of our beloved Gary Strahm.
Not only was the store Strahm's life, it was a place where he tried to make a contribution to the community.
When the Hawthorne Police Department started an adopt-a-bike program last year to get rid of a surplus of abandoned and stolen bicycles, Strahm refurbished the bikes for free, outfitting them with new chains, replacing broken parts and donating a case of bicycle helmets to the department, which gave the bikes to underprivileged youngsters for Christmas.
Officer Dave Gregor, who headed the adopt-a-bike program, asked Strahm to take part in the program because "he was a decent human being who was always willing to help."
He said Strahm's bike shop is the only one he's ever been in and he has bought all of his children's bikes from the store.
The killers fled in a blue Toyota or Nissan truck.
Anyone with information is asked to call Hawthorne police at (310) 970-7976.