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Sports love comes `Full Circle'

Recycling shop gives goods a second chance

ASHLAND -- When Hans Davis' dad died, Davis inherited his set of Wilson golf clubs. But the 30-year-old teaching student already had two sets of his own.

So he wandered down to Full Circle Sports -- a recycled sporting goods store -- to see if the beloved golf clubs could find a new owner.

As long as someone wants to use them and play with them, that's a good thing, Davis said as he put the clubs on consignment at the store.

It's people like Davis, little kids that grow out of their bikes, women who change from cross-country skiing to downhill and numerous other sports enthusiasts who have made Cantril Nielsen's 1-year-old business -- Full Circle Sports -- a success.

I try to have a place where people can come and get cool stuff and not have to spend a ton of money, Nielsen, 31, explained as his bulldog, Coffee, stretched herself out near a small library of sports books such as Where the Trails Are and The Hackey Sack Book.

At 340 A St., near the Grange Co-op, Nielsen has crammed a 1,500-square-foot room with nearly every type of slightly used sports equipment known to man. Off-brand new equipment also joins in the jumble.

The prices are a fraction of retail.

Battered basketballs and footballs hang in a hammock above broken-in bike shoes. About 50 bikes, from top-of-the-line mountain bikes with knobby tires to kids' bikes with banana seats, are outside on the sidewalk or in the shop. A canoe hangs from the ceiling near a string of soccer shoes. Suzanne Vega plays on the stereo.

A silver tabby named Mickey meanders through a myriad of bike wheels, while a black and tan coon hound named Sammy reclines on lawn furniture outside the shop.

Pet baby sitters are expensive, so I just bring them along, Nielsen explains with a shrug.

In a blue T-shirt and cut-off shorts, he looks much more like the transplanted Southern California surfer that he is than an up-and-coming entrepreneur. But he loves the world of recycled sports equipment, always wanted to live in Ashland and still surfs the Oregon coast whenever he gets a chance.

It's cold, yeah, but you just have to wear a really thick wet suit, he said.

Nielsen graduated with a degree in anthropology from the University of Idaho in Moscow a few years back. But during school, he worked in a recycled sports shop much like the one he now owns.

An outdoor kind of guy, Nielsen has participated in most of the sports he sells equipment for and worked in a few bike shops besides.

Growing up in different places, including ski resorts, beach towns and Nevada, he came to Ashland many times with his mother to see plays. Both of his sisters attended Southern Oregon University.

So when he looked around for where he wanted to settle there wasn't a question. He said he was just lucky it also worked in with his business plan. He made his decision to start his business in Ashland even though Play it Again Sports, a national franchise, had just gone out of business in Medford.

I figure Ashland would be the place because of all the people around here liking the outdoors and accessibility and all that, he said.

So he saved money for a year and collected as much equipment as he could. With a little help from his dad, Full Circle Sports was born.

Now, any day of the week, there's usually two or three people wandering through fingering the camping gear or admiring the surfboards.

They all come in for different things -- in the summer, bikes dominate the sales with camping and backpacking a close second, he said. In the winter it's definitely snowboards and snow equipment.

Frequent customers know that Nielsen gives the bikes he's sold a free tune-up after they've been ridden awhile, and cheerfully takes care of any problems with the used equipment he sells.It's important to take care of people, Nielsen said.

He gets stock from his store from a number of different sources: Some people like the teaching student bring in used equipment to sell. He also picks up items at garage sales and Goodwills. New equipment is purchased from catalogues based on high quality and low price, not brand name, he said.

And as the equipment comes in, Nielsen quickly makes his decision on how much everything from a bike gear to a skateboard is worth.

I've always had a good sense of that, he said. I don't know where I get it or how it comes to me, but if someone brings something in I pretty much know how much it was new and how much I can get for it.

Nielsen describes his first foray into the business world as fun.

I wouldn't say I'm rolling in the money, he said.But it feels good to keep busy and keep people happy, including myself.

Cantril Nielsen's Full Circle Sports gives people a place, he says, to 'come and get cool stuff and not have to spend a ton of money.' - By DANI DODGE