Photo by John; all others courtesy of WIG Bags
This is the second in a series of interviews looking into what it will take for Chicago to develop a thriving bike-related business community, focusing on messenger bags. Earlier I talked to Tia Meilinger from New York City’s Vaya Bags to learn how she launched a successful global business. Last week I caught up with Isaac Grigsby from Chicago’s WIG Bags over breakfast at the West River Café, 4400 N. Kedzie in Albany Park, a few blocks from his workshop, to discuss his business and his views on the local scene.
In the early 2000s Grigsby started WIG, Wheels in Gyration – “It means the wheels are always turning, I’m always trying to figure something out or put something together,” he says. Since then he’s made thousands of custom bags and shipped them to every corner of the globe. But he says he has no interest in having his products – messenger bags, backpacks, camera bags and more – sitting on store shelves.
We talked about the origins of his business, the features of his courier bags, how he gets the word out about his products and why he doesn’t like sewing custom images on the flaps of his bags. Grigsby also gave his opinion about why it’s difficult to launch a bike business in this city and told me what it’s like sewing carrying cases for rocket-propelled grenade launchers. Continue reading Isaac Grigsby of WIG Bags
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?