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

Delivering the goods: Chicago hosts a global bike messenger rally


[This article also appears on the environmental website Grist.orgView more photos on the Flickr group.]

Under cobalt skies last Sunday, I’m standing atop the man-made sled hill next to Chicago’s Soldier Field football stadium. To the north are the gleaming skyscrapers of the Loop business district, as well the pummeling beats of the Lollapalooza fest. To the east, ocean-like Lake Michigan is filled with bobbing sailboats. To the south, hundreds of bicycle couriers are gathered in a huge parking lot for the finals of the 20th annual Cycle Messenger World Championships, the ultimate test of two-wheeled delivery prowess.

It’s been a long, alcohol-fueled week of events celebrating the courier lifestyle, including on-street “alleycat” races, a film night, track racing and the Messenger Prom, with cyclists dolled up in cocktail dresses and pastel tuxes. Many pundits predicted that bike couriers would go the way of the Pony Express, rendered obsolete by digital technology. It’s true that email and online file sharing have cut into business since the salad days of the 1990s. But the crowd of messengers, who’ve come from as far away as Guatemala, Japan, and Australia, suggests that as cities grow more congested there may always be a place for fast, efficient, environmentally friendly bike delivery.

Continue reading Delivering the goods: Chicago hosts a global bike messenger rally

Meet Brandon, owner and operator of Chicago Cargo


Brandon on Milwaukee Avenue across from Café Mustache, where we met last week.

I briefly introduced Brandon Gobel, a Chicago courier, in Monday’s article about Zipments and how it will change the bike and small-scale messenger industry. I promised we’d talk more about him and his business, Chicago Cargo, today.

Continue reading Meet Brandon, owner and operator of Chicago Cargo