As most of you might know, the shop was featured in the November 6-12, 2009 Hampshire Life. However, if you haven't got a chance to check it out, you should, right here.
The Article From Gazettenet.com;
Full Circle Bike Shop in Florence was buzzing with action on an early October afternoon, but little of it had anything to do with business.
Owner Jason "Jay" Graves was talking to one teenage boy about new pedals for his BMX bike, but the rest of the kids were in the store simply to hang out.
A cluster of them stood around talking, while two sat watching a video on BMX biking. Others wandered up and down the long hall that led from the store's front door to the counter where Graves was standing. One asked if he could borrow a wrench. Just then the phone rang, and as Graves grabbed it, another boy headed over to the tool set to get the wrench himself.
It's all fine with Graves.
Coming up fast on his 37th birthday, Graves is a BMX rider himself who just happens to run a bike shop. For him and the young riders drawn to the store, BMX biking - the jumps, the turns, the stunts - isn't just a sport, a hobby, or a fun thing to do on weekends. It's a way of life.
"It's a lot of fun," says Graves. "But it's not just the riding. It's also about friendships, spending time doing something you like with other people who share that interest."
Graves, who lives in Worthington, opened his shop on South Maple Street three years ago. He had spent years riding BMX and mountain bikes as well as racing dirt bikes; he'd also logged time in area bike stores (and one in Florida) as a mechanic. He says he noticed that BMX bikes were an afterthought in all of them, and enthusiasts weren't welcome to hang around.
"I wanted to have a shop that was different, that would really cater to [the BMX scene]," he says. "And I wanted [riders] to feel they could come by and just spend time here." He likes the idea of giving kids a place to gather, focused on their common interest. That, he points out, helps them avoid boredom and the trouble that can result.
Sixteen-year-old Eric Daley of Williamsburg, who began coming to Full Circle Bikes a couple of years ago, appreciates that. "Other bike stores I've been in don't want you there unless you're buying something," he says. "Here, it's different."
It's not just a place for kids. Sitting in a chair by the front counter one day recently was Tom Bacis of Easthampton, a BMX rider in his mid-30s who races regularly, as do both his young sons. "Jay's store is pretty much the headquarters for BMX around here," he says.
Graves, an affable man with glasses and a trace of a beard, says it's been tough at times running the business by himself, though he's grateful for the occasional help he gets from friends. Married with two young sons, he puts in long hours: Full Circle is open six days a week, for a total of 42 hours, but that doesn't include the nights he works late, catching up on backlogged repairs.
While he estimates that about 65 percent of his business is devoted to selling and repairing BMX equipment, he fixes other types of bikes, too, and sells some mountain bikes as well.
"Everyone told me I wouldn't be able to do this, but so far I'm hanging in there," he says. In fact, he'll be moving his business to a larger building next door by the end of December. "I figure I must be doing something right."
BMX biking traces its origins to the 1970s, when kids riding one-speed Schwinn Sting-Ray bicycles on wooded trails began trying to imitate motorcycle riders who performed motocross stunts, such as long jumps, on their machines. What became known as Bicycle Motocross, or BMX, became an official U.S. sport in the late 1970s and then an international one. It was featured in the Olympics for the first time last year in China.
But according to Graves and other riders, BMX is still not a mainstream sport. Only a few of the top BMX riders in the country make a living racing or doing freestyle tricks - jumping, spinning, flipping or riding on man-made obstacles like stairs, handrails and ledges. People mostly ride for fun, says Graves. And the sport has a unique aesthetic vibe: ragged, or at least worn-out, clothing for riding coupled with tricked-out bikes.
"People do like to spice up their bikes, make 'em really colorful," says Graves. "Your bike is really an extension of your personality."
Consider Liam O'Connor, a lanky 15-year-old from Southampton, who recently was inspecting some of the pedals Graves had for sale. He'd been eyeing some bright orange alloy ones when Graves pointed to another pair in his display case. They were made of a heavy-duty plastic and were nearly opaque.
"They change color in sunlight - here, check 'em out," said Graves, handing the pedals to O'Connor.
The teen headed outside to a small parking lot next to the bike shop, where he was joined by another rider, JohnChilds of Chesterfield, who hopped onto his bike and began spinning around the lot, shooting up and over a small staircase next to an adjacent building. "Take them into the sun," called Childs. O'Connor stepped beyond a shadow cast by the bike shop - and when he did, the pedals turned a bright purple. "Oh, man, that is awesome!" he exclaimed.
"Isn't that sweet?" said Childs as he pedaled by.
Graves got his first bike as a kid from F.J. Rogers, a shop that's still in Florence, not far from his own. He became interested in BMX biking when he was around 10. But he also enjoyed traditional road riding, as well as mountain biking. As an older teen he got into dirt bike riding, which included long jumping, and BMX biking took a backseat. But he got back into the sport when he was 22. And now his younger son, 3-year-old Jonah, has become smitten with BMX as well.
These days he does some occasional road bicycling with his family - Jonah, Forest, 9, and his wife, Lynne - and also squeezes BMX riding in when he can. "I don't get to do as much as I'd like," he says ruefully. Still, it's become a tradition at Full Circle that when the shop closes at 5 on Sunday afternoons, Graves and any bikers hanging out there head off for a group ride and freestyle tricks.
One place they like to go is the University of Massachusetts campus in Amherst, but it's the kind of sport that can be done almost anywhere, riders say. "In the winter, you can throw an old rug or strip of carpet over a snowbank and you have a jump," says Childs. "All you need are some gloves, a hat and a few warm clothes."
On a breezy Sunday afternoon recently, as the Red Sox were bowing out of the playoffs, Graves and company were gathered at the edge of his backyard in Worthington, where he's been doing some landscaping: building a BMX track.
The track, shaped like a giant L and running about 140 yards long, features a series of dirt jumps, each one a bit longer and more difficult to handle than the previous one, plus some turns and embankments. It represents a lot of hard work, as Graves - with help from his friends - has dug out most of it by hand bit by bit over several years.
"I started doing it when [Forest] was little, and he'd come out with me and just play in the dirt," he said as he worked a shovel near one of the jumps, adding some fresh dirt to the base and then tamping it down. "This is what you do when you're into BMX." The term for the work is a straightforward one - digging - but it's really more of a construction job: getting the jumps and turns built to just the right height and consistency.
The work sometimes calls for improvisation as well: Graves had reinforced the back of one of the jumps with an old sofa.
Today he was getting help from fellow biker Bo Porter, who was using a small backhoe (owned by his mother, who runs a landscaping company) to dig out some fresh dirt piles to make new jumps. At one point, Porter stepped down from the machine and stood by Graves. The two eyed the dirt mounds, close to 6 feet high and about 14 feet apart.
"What do you think of the gap?" asked Graves. "It's our biggest one yet."
"We could probably move them a little closer if we need to," Porter responded. "Be a nice challenge like this, though."
A portable radio, resting on a nearby table, was blaring rock from 99.3 FM. A few younger bikers were alternately digging at a couple of the jumps or testing them on their bikes. Eric Daley went soaring over one just after Cody Clarke moved his shovel away from it. "There you go, messing me up when I'm trying to work," said Clarke in mock outrage.
When bad weather moves in, the riders can look forward to a trip like one Graves organized last year. He rented a bus and took 65 of them to an indoor biking facility in Rye, N.H. The bikes were stored in the luggage compartment beneath the bus by disassembling their handlebars and front wheels for the drive.
"I had 100 people sign up - couldn't take them all," says Graves. "Some of the kids are already asking me, 'When are we going back?' " He's hoping to do a couple of trips this winter "if I can get organized enough," he adds with a laugh.
And then there'll still be time at the store, watching BMX videos, sprucing up bikes, talking shop. "We find ways to pass the time," he says. "It's fun just being together."
—"Jason Graves and his band of BMXers"; By STEVE PFARRER; The Daily Hampshire Gazette's Hampshire Life, November 6-12, 2009