A bike lover’s haven: A pink slip 15 years ago led Jason Graves to open Full Circle Bike Shop

A finger board park made by Jason Graves at Full Circle Bike Shop in Florence.

A finger board park made by Jason Graves at Full Circle Bike Shop in Florence. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Daniel Fitzgibbons uses the finger board park made by Jason Graves at Full Circle Bike Shop in Florence. Fitzgibbons has been finger boarding with his brother since he was 9.

Daniel Fitzgibbons uses the finger board park made by Jason Graves at Full Circle Bike Shop in Florence. Fitzgibbons has been finger boarding with his brother since he was 9. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Jason Graves puts together a bike a customer is giving to their child for the holidays at his store in Florence , Full Circle Bike Shop .

Jason Graves puts together a bike a customer is giving to their child for the holidays at his store in Florence , Full Circle Bike Shop . STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Daniel Fitzgibbons uses the fingerboard park made by Jason Graves at Full Circle Bike Shop. Fitzgibbons has been fingerboarding with his brother since he was 9.

Daniel Fitzgibbons uses the fingerboard park made by Jason Graves at Full Circle Bike Shop. Fitzgibbons has been fingerboarding with his brother since he was 9.

Daniel Fitzgibbons uses the finger board park made by Jason Graves at Full Circle Bike Shop in Florence. Fitzgibbons has been finger boarding with his brother since he was 9.

Daniel Fitzgibbons uses the finger board park made by Jason Graves at Full Circle Bike Shop in Florence. Fitzgibbons has been finger boarding with his brother since he was 9. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Daniel Fitzgibbons uses the finger board park made by Jason Graves at Full Circle Bike Shop in Florence. Fitzgibbons has been finger boarding with his brother since he was 9.

Daniel Fitzgibbons uses the finger board park made by Jason Graves at Full Circle Bike Shop in Florence. Fitzgibbons has been finger boarding with his brother since he was 9. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Jason Graves puts together a bike a customer is giving to their child for the holidays at his store in Florence, Full Circle Bike Shop.

Jason Graves puts together a bike a customer is giving to their child for the holidays at his store in Florence, Full Circle Bike Shop. STAFF PHOTOS/CAROL LOLLIS

Daniel Fitzgibbons uses the finger board park made by Jason Graves at Full Circle Bike Shop in Florence. Fitzgibbons has been finger boarding with his brother since he was 9.

Daniel Fitzgibbons uses the finger board park made by Jason Graves at Full Circle Bike Shop in Florence. Fitzgibbons has been finger boarding with his brother since he was 9. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Daniel Fitzgibbons and Jason Graves, owner of Full Circle Bike Shop, work on adding a set of stairs and rail to the Fingerboard Park after the famous spot at UMass where many skaters have been filmed and photographed skating.

Daniel Fitzgibbons and Jason Graves, owner of Full Circle Bike Shop, work on adding a set of stairs and rail to the Fingerboard Park after the famous spot at UMass where many skaters have been filmed and photographed skating. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

By ALEXANDER MACDOUGALL

Staff Writer

Published: 12-13-2023 4:52 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Around 15 years ago, Jason Graves lost his job at a restaurant and needed to find another way to make an income. That’s when his wife, Lynn, made a suggestion: “Why don’t you open up a bike shop?”

Soon, Full Circle Bike Shop in Florence was born and has been in continuous operation since 2007. Originally designed for BMX (bicycle motocross) sport bikes, the store has expanded to feature regular bikes, mountain bikes and even electric-powered bikes made by local manufacturer Quadrini.

“I soon learned that we had to diversify,” Graves said. “There’s a reason there aren’t really any other BMX shops. It’s not just quite the area, I guess. But it definitely is what I wanted to do.”

The difference between the types of bikes can be seen in their heights and wheel sizes, among other factors, according to Graves. BMX bikes generally have 20-inch wheels, while a regular bike is closer to 27 inches and a mountain bike is 29 inches.

Though selling bicycles was slow going at first, Graves found people would come in consistently to ask about scooters, which led him to add them to the mixture of pedestrian-powered vehicles in the shop.

“There were a couple of local kids that were just so into it,” he recalled. “The first year we had scooters, they sold like candy.”

At Full Circle, customers can buy their own pre-made bikes or they can make their custom bike from scratch, buying individual parts such as pedals, frames and spokes. Graves also sells fully built bikes that he custom designs.

The same is true for scooters, with Graves even hosting a workbench in the store where people can work on building their new ride.

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“The most fun thing to do is build the bike piece by piece,” Graves said. “(The price) can escalate quickly when you build it yourself, but who doesn’t want to do that if they have the money?”

Recently, Graves has been expanding to provide for another specialty the store sells: fingerboards.

Fingerboards are miniaturized skateboards that one can ride with the pointer and middle finger of their hand. Almost any trick that can be performed on a real skateboard, such as an ollie or a kickflip, can be accomplished on a fingerboard.

Though Graves doesn’t sell traditional skateboards, not wanting to get into competition with the nearby Theory Skateshop, he recently installed a miniature skate park inside his store, using cement over ramps made out of styrofoam.

“My dad was always into model trains, so this miniature world totally appeals to me,” Graves said. “If you’ve ever seen model trains, you know people like to nerd out on the scenery, and it’s awesome. So I’m like, ‘Let’s make a skatepark.’ ”

Though the miniature park is not yet completed, with Graves planning to create a miniature version of Florence inside it, people with fingerboards — from cheaper Tech Deck models to more advanced models that can cost as much as a real skateboard — are now free to use it and ride their fingerboards along the ramps. The store also sells fingerboards made by Flatface Fingerboards of Dracut in central Massachusetts, another way the store keeps its merchandise local.

Next up for an area for Graves to expand to? Disc golf, another alternative sport Graves said his popular in the Pioneer Valley area.

“A lot of people love shopping local,” he said. “We’ve sold a fair amount of discs, but we’ve also sold many targets, where people get those and put them in their backyard. They’re everywhere nowadays.”

Alexander MacDougall can be reached at amacdougall@gazettenet.com.