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"Life in the Attleboros"

By Allyson Harris—Sun Chronicle Staff Writer
Thomas Sirois, a blond, chubby-faced toddler, came running out of the back room of Sirois Bicycle Shop to inspect a visitor. Holding up a bottle, he studied the visitor as much as he does his father, uncle, and grandfather repairing bikes in the store. "He is already working with tools," said his grandfather, Robert Sirois, known as Pepere to the youngster. Thomas, almost two years old, can differentiate among an allen wrench, a 15-millimeter wrench, and other tools. "If you tell him to get a wrench for this nut, he'll pick it up off the bench," said his father, Joseph, 21, pointing to a nut on the handlebars of a small children's bike.

Thomas spends his days at the store, where his crib and table are set up in the back room. His grandfather, Robert, 45, says he will absolutely work in the store when he grows up. If so, he would be the fourth Sirois to do so.

When his great-grandfather, the late Gerard Sirois, opened the bicycle shop on Richards Avenue in 1943, he was hard-pressed to make a living off bikes alone. He sold penny candy and ice cream and sharpened skates and lawn mowers to round out a decent income.

Situated among the Woodcock School, Sacred Heart School, and the Bank Street School, the store had a constant stream of young customers who congregated at the shop. Robert Sirois, who runs the store now with his son Robert Jr., remembers a Sacred Heart priest, also a Boy Scout leader, often coming over to the store to round up his wandering troop.

Gerard Sirois was a French Canadian partial to cigars and hard work, known as "Frenchie" because of his accent. He was forced to sell the business at one point after incurring some heavy debt. He sold it on the condition that another bicycle shop would not be opened in the area.

Sirois did not open another one; instead, he bought back his store five years later and moved in to Orne Street behind his house. A modern, brick ship was built about five years ago around the corner on Landry Avenue. Today the store supports the three Sirois families, who sell about 800 bicycles and install 2,000 new tires tubes a year.

The modern brick shop at 893 Landry Ave carries the latest bicycles available from sleek 10-speed Fuji's to heavier all-terrain bikes to brightly-colored BMX bikes for children.

There are even tricycles that cost $60.

Robert Sirois has traveled to bike shows in England, Hong Kong and Japan while his father put off a trip to Canada to see his family for years. “All he wanted to do was get dirty and work hard.” his son said. He worked like hell. He was satisfied to just make a living. Sirois said he learned from his father's habits to do just the opposite.

The delayed the trip to Canada, at his father's urging because there was always “too much work to do.” His father died before they made the trip. The year after his death, Sirois traveled 430 miles by bicycle to Nova Scotia and hopes to do so every year. Sirois joined his father's business in 1976 after leaving a full-time job at the in Foxboro Co. He brought in 10-speed bikes over his father's protests (Gerard Sirois didn't think they were well made), and began adding bike accessories.

The business grew along with the interest among adults in bicycle riding. Sirois is a bicycling enthusiast himself, who logs about 2,000 miles a year on his touring bike. Most riders are out March through September, a period that is the store's busy season. In the summer, it is so busy that they have to turn away repair work for bicycles that aren't purchased at the store. At this time of year, Robert Sirois said, “You could go a week without more than two to three customers.” Gerard Sirois didn't live to see his great-grandson born, but he did see the new store built. At his funeral 2 ½ years ago, Robert asked that the procession stop for a moment of silence at the store on Landry Avenue. He thought it would be a nice way to remember his father.

Robert Sr. retired in 2008, the shop was taken over by Robert Jr. and Joseph, the 3rd generation in the shop.

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