Circuit BMX Store - "A support system for the BMX community"
The Pride of Rhode Island...
3 Feb 2021
Interview by Rob Dolecki
Circuit BMX has been a staple in the Rhode Island and New England scene for almost a decade and a half now (which is the equivalent to few lifetimes in the average BMX shop's lifespan). Vic Bettencourt (founder, owner, and rider) gave us some insight into how the shop is faring in these bizarre times, and how and why he keeps it 100% BMX.
The importance of BMX shops to local scenes (and BMX culture) can not be underestimated and that's why we support them. Throughout the year we'll continue to feature our DIG Partner Stores from around the world, so look for more local BMX shop articles soon!
How long has Circuit been in business?
We just passed our 14-year mark. 15-year party this coming fall.
Who owns the shop? Who works there?
Myself (Vic Bettencourt) and Cara (my wife) own the shop. Chris Childs is our only full-time employee. We also have a cast of helpers such as Bobby Proctor, Kevin Reardon, Mark Ducharme, Cam Childs, just to name a few.
Can you explain how the idea for a store came to be?
I never had the intention of opening a shop until I had spent some time working in bike shops and just didn’t feel that BMX was being treated and represented the way it should be. So Cara and I decided to make the push and support our local BMX community. Do our own thing. At first I just sold things to my friends and did wheel builds, and it took off pretty quickly. AT first I was just using the spare room in our apartment but one night we were at an art show in a friend’s building and he had a cheap vacant space so we took it. It was super small and we quickly outgrew it.
Why did you start a shop in your area?
I never felt comfortable buying BMX goods from a sales person that didn’t ride BMX. It just doesn’t seem right to me. While working in other area shops, we saw the need for a dedicated BMX shop firsthand. I thought that knowing most of the riders in the area would give us a good core, and help us hit the ground running. And it did!
Why is Circuit a strictly BMX shop?
BMX needs more BMX! If we can’t support one another in what we love to do then we fail. We’re just doing what we love. It would feel disingenuous to include things in the shop that we aren't personally into. We do have other stuff that we personally like, such as some Fairdales and that may expand if we find ourselves riding other types of bikes that we are into. The beauty of owning a business is that we can make the shop whatever we want it to be. It’s a reflection of our interests and the products we like, and especially things our friends make. Circuit is truly a support system for the BMX community. It’s not just about selling products–but also sharing stories of riding and digging. And giving spots for others to ride. It’s a real community.
Who's on the shop team?
We do have a shop “team.” It’s just an endless list of close friends, but our official team goes as follows: Chris Childs, Mark Mulville, Cody Diggle, Eric Hennessey, Crandall, The Halahan Family, Bobby Proctor, Tyler Frederick, Snotty, John “Chunk” Tillman, Dr. Luis Pinzon, Matt Coplon, Dewey Lamarre, Ray Rankin, Derek Klegreafe, Matt Tavares, Landon May. The list goes on.
What promotional events have you done at or near the shop since opening?
We've had too many to list. Countless shop jams at local parks/trails and even illegally shutting down our side street for a few. We have endless video premieres and party’s just for the hell of it. Thanks to all the brands/teams that have come through over the years.
Any plans for more?
We always have something in the works. Bigger and better once we are allowed to safely gather again. It seems like we are due for a 15-year anniversary party, and we’d love to get the Roger Williams Pump Track summer events going again.
How has COVID affected the shop, and the local scene?
Well, COVID created such a boom in the industry and made products difficult to obtain throughout the busiest seasons. I’ve spent a good deal of my work time over the past year trying to order products for the shop. Let’s just say some distros handled it better than others. The whole industry wasn’t prepared to handle the sudden demand for products. The best brands and distros are now communicating with us to estimate our demand for next year so they can plan ahead. On the opposite spectrum, other brands and distros that don’t have enough product to go around, so they give what they have to the larger mail orders and the smaller shops suffer the loss. It’s really disappointing to see this side of the industry. It has nothing to do with helping BMX, and everything to do with capitalism.
As far as the scene, we sold a lot of complete bikes this year. I’m hoping that even a small percentage of the new riders that got into BMX this past year stick with it. That will create a strong scene for the riders coming up. Our local trails scene was really limited this year. We personally didn’t have many people riding at our house this year. We kept our circle tight.
COVID had some negative effects. We didn’t feel comfortable hosting any events or jams due to the virus. That’s a bummer since we really enjoy putting them on. But we will be back at it shortly.
What changes have you noticed in the Providence area scene since the shop opened?
In the past 15 years since the shop opened, we’ve seen faces come and go and come again. Our local scene is stronger than ever. Lots of new parks popping up with more in the works. We are fortunate enough to be involved with the Providence Parks Department and advise them on what works and what doesn’t for local parks. It’s been a great experience. New England as a whole is just a great place for BMX. There are so many rad groups that stick together and cruise but when we all meet up at a local jam it feels like a family reunion. I love the New England BMX scene.
Do you have any plans to produce any new team videos?
I can’t imagine ever doing one. Small edits here and there are cool but it seems like a lot of work. I just don’t have the time to commit to it, but if any of the dudes wanted to take it on, I would be open to making it happen. It could be fun since everyone that rides for the Circuit absolutely kills it.
How important is performing bike repairs and maintenance for your shop?
It’s at the top of our list. I pride myself on being a proper mechanic, and it’s what I enjoy most about owning a shop. When someone brings a bike in with a problem that they can’t solve and we get it dialed in for them, it’s very gratifying. From building wheels to getting rid of that pesky drive train click. We do it all. We also service all the complete bikes we sell in the shop for free. So we are constantly wrenching on customers' bikes.
What brands do you carry?
The core brands that make quality products and put something back into the BMX community. Those are the brands we prefer to support. We also carry new brands and projects our friend’s have started like Fast & Loose, Burn Slow, Drop In Coffee, Pareidolia, just to name a few.
What's something you never expected to happen after opening the shop?
Being able to live the BMX lifestyle well into my 40s! Staying in business for 15 years and making the shop into what it has become. The path that it has led us on has been unreal. From building our own bike park with the city of Providence to having some of the top riders in the world just randomly pop in to build their bikes for a trip. It’s all been rad and I look forward to the future and keeping things rolling in the right direction.
Where do you want the shop to be in five years?
I see the shop being in a new, larger location with showroom/warehouse space and serving the New England scene on a larger scale. That’s our ultimate goal in the next few years. We’ve outgrown our current location and it would be nice to have a ramp to ride in the cold months.
Location: Pawtucket, Rhode Island
Shop address: 29 Exchange St
Hours: Monday Closed, Tuesday-Friday 12-6PM, Saturday 10-6PM, Sunday 11-3PM
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