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?