New cargo bike business wants to protect your windows


Scott Baermann cleans windows at Ipsento on a sunny September afternoon. 

Scott Baermann has been in the window cleaning business for 10 years, mostly in northern Indiana. He operated that business from afar when he moved to Chicago in 2006. Earlier this year he took on his friend Ryan Hoban as a partner. But the future didn’t lie in northern Indiana, it was here in Chicago.

I interviewed the Urban Street Window Works guys in August at their “office” in Ipsento Coffee House in Bucktown. This was the same office at which Scott and Ryan decided to try storefronts as a way to break into business in the city, an industry they said was dominated by “one bucket wonders”.

Most people already have a guy, and they don’t know who it is. He just comes around a few times and you pay him $7, $8 bucks. We want to develop a relationship, in how we want to separate ourselves. We want them to know our names.

Our first storefront was Ipsento, I know Tim, I asked, “Who does your windows?” Shoot me a quote and we’ll talk. Tim bought the equipment himself, “but as you can see I don’t do a good job”.

Ipsento became their first customer. A walk around the neighborhood netted them a few more customers. The pair got bikes on their radar after the threat of parking tickets raised its ugly head (fortunately they didn’t get one on an early work call). They looked at trailers on Craigslist and bought a single wheel trailer in Evanston. Ryan mentioned the benefits of using a bike for work, saying, “We can be a lot more efficient. I love riding my bikes. So this is like a dream come true, riding my bike every day.” Continue reading New cargo bike business wants to protect your windows

What would it take for Chicago’s messenger bag companies to go nationwide?


A Chicago flag-inspired messenger bag by New York’s Vaya Bags – all photos in this post courtesy of Vaya Bags

I believe that one sign that you’re in a great city for cycling is a proliferation of successful bike-related businesses. For example, a study done Mia Birk when she was bike coordinator of Portland, Oregon, found that the local bike industry has contributed $100 million and 1,500 jobs to that city’s economy in recent years.

There are a currently a handful of folks here in Chicago making great handmade bike products. You can find their bags, caps and other accessories listed in our gift guide. But it bothers me our city doesn’t have its fair share of independent bike-oriented businesses, and I’m not exactly sure why we don’t. It probably has something to do with the fact that, while we who live here know this is a great city for urban riding, the cold winters and lack of easy access to country roads and mountain bike trails prevent this town from being a magnet for bicycle entrepreneurs.

Back in the Nineties when I was a cycle courier, it always bugged me that every bike culture Mecca worth its bearing grease was represented by at least one well-known messenger bag company, except for Chicago. It was like that article in Vibe magazine during our pre-Kanye/Common hip-hop drought calling this “a city of three million [individuals] who can’t rap.” Was Chicago really that lame?

Continue reading What would it take for Chicago’s messenger bag companies to go nationwide?