Weekender Ride

At Chrome store, free waffles and champagne on Messenger Appreciation Day

Posted by on October 9th, 2015 at 11:36 am

messenger with cargo

Greg Doctorelo out on delivery for GO Box.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Today is Messenger Appreciation Day, also known by its messenger code name as “10-9 Day.” To mark the occasion the Chrome Hub store in downtown Portland hosted a free breakfast to these unsung heroes of Portland’s economy.

When I rolled in around 9:30 or so the smell of fresh Belgian waffles and coffee filled the air. Chrome store manager Lilly Hager and her crew had set out a feast for working messengers. There was a tub of champagne, bagels and cream cheese, a dozen donuts, and a sign hanging above it all that read: “Happy Thank You.”

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Lilly Hager displaying her chopstick skills.
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Photographer and messenger Damian Riehl celebrating the day.

While the business of delivering things by bike has changed dramatically over the years, Portland is still home to about two dozen messengers. Or at least two dozen of the classic style of messengers made popular by Hollywood and Madison Avenue ad campaigns over the years.

These “business couriers” or “office guys” have set routes and clients and deal primarily in parcels, blueprints, data files, and other time-sensitive documents. They are a different breed in many ways from the newer-style of bike delivery people that have sprouted up in recent years thanks to companies like B-Line, Portland Pedal Power, Jimmy Johns, and others. Then there are the start-ups like Postmates, Delivery Dudes, and Caviar.

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Jay Grisham has been a messenger in Portland for two years.

“In some ways we’re seeing the death of the industry,” said messenger Jay Grisham as he bit into a waffle, “But in many ways, bicycle delivery has never been stronger.”

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Kevin Phomma stopped by before clocking in for the day.

Jay is one of four bike messengers employed by MercuryPDX. He said working as a messenger in this more traditional role doesn’t pay as well as working for one of those other companies, but for him it’s not all about the money.

“All the perks aren’t financial,” he said. What are the perks I asked? “Freedom.”

“With so many jobs,” he continued, “when you’re not busy, they want you to look busy. But when I’m not busy, I can come here, eat a waffle, read a book. It’s pretty nice.”

And he isn’t envious of people who have to deliver food. “I like carrying envelopes rather than plates you can spill,” he said.

One of Portland’s most established messengers, Dee Branham of Magpie Messenger Collective, was also there this morning. When I came in he was holding up the 2009 Portland City Council proclamation where then Mayor Sam Adams made Messenger Day official.

These days most of Dee’s business comes from doing post office runs. He and the Magpie crew do an early mail run for businesses whose mailperson comes too late in the day and then a similar run in the afternoon.

Dee and Jay both said the messenger scene has remained a pretty close-knit community. One downtown business recently moved to Swan Island so they didn’t need a bike messenger any longer. “He retired,” Dee said, “And there are so few of us that when one person leaves it’s actually a large percentage.”

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Dee pops the cork on a bottle of champagne.

If you see a messenger today, give them a “thank you” or a nod of encouragement. They deserve our gratitude and support!

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

13 Comments
  • Anne Hawley
    Anne Hawley October 9, 2015 at 11:47 am

    Rather sad, a bit nostalgic, a bit forward-looking. Wonderful slice of bike life, Jonathan.

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  • Jack October 9, 2015 at 12:10 pm

    I use to be a bike messenger in Denver during the mid-90s, when Chrome Bags started there. We never got free waffles! Happy 10-9 day everyone.

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    • scott October 9, 2015 at 1:54 pm

      Yeah but you could skate their ramp on down time.

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  • Adam Herstein
    Adam Herstein October 9, 2015 at 1:42 pm

    I see the future of bike messaging not as some character created for a Chrome ad, but in cargo bike delivery. I think companies like B-Cycle have a huge potential to change the local freight business by providing a cheaper and more environmentally-friendly way to get stuff delivered.

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    • scott October 9, 2015 at 1:57 pm

      Rather Chrome is a company created to monetize the look of messengers. Get your story straight and don’t crap on people because their community got co-opted and turned into a scene.

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      • Granpa October 9, 2015 at 2:05 pm

        Hey, that’s my schtic. if anyone is going to be bitter and cranky it is me.

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    • scott October 9, 2015 at 2:00 pm

      Also messengers have been using cargo bikes since before your wife wanted on to go to New Seasons.

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  • Mark October 9, 2015 at 2:59 pm

    That aluminum carrier is sweet! I love their tenacity…but get frustrated with their apparent disdain for red lights and stop signs.

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    • Jason October 10, 2015 at 8:47 am

      There’s the comment I was looking for!

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  • Dave October 12, 2015 at 8:03 am

    Every time I hear a hacking story in the news, the future seems brighter for both USPS and bike messengers. I really think that peak trust in digital communications has passed by.

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  • 9watts October 12, 2015 at 9:15 am

    Anyone know who makes that aluminum trailer? I like it.

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    • Eric Leifsdad October 13, 2015 at 11:44 pm

      It looks like the base of the trailer is bikes at work. I haven’t seen boxes like that — they look homebuilt.

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      • 9watts October 14, 2015 at 7:27 am

        It does evoke the BaW design, but then so does the Surly trailer. Although the tongue is an excellent copy, the hitch is quite different and so I was thinking perhaps it was another interpretation.

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