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Chrome Industries will relocate from San Francisco to Portland

Posted by on January 5th, 2017 at 9:32 am

New Chrome store in downtown Portland-23

The Chrome retail store at 420 SW 10th Ave in downtown Portland.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

We just gained another iconic cycling brand: Chrome Industries announced this morning that they plan to relocate to Portland in early April.

Chrome is well-known in the bike world for its messenger bags, shoes and apparel. Closely tied to the messenger scene since its start in Denver, Colorado in 1995. Chrome had been based in San Francisco since 2002 and the company opened a retail store in downtown Portland in 2012. The company makes custom bags in its retail stores and they make about 60 percent of all their products in the USA (bags are made in Chico and apparel is cut and sewn in San Francisco). A rep for the company said there are no immediate plans to bring production jobs to Portland.

In a press release, Chrome explained why they decided to move their head office here:

The head office move to Portland puts renewed focus on product development and innovation, setting it closer to the company’s main innovation lab – already located in Portland. It also serves to bring together Chrome’s Ecommerce team already operating in Portland. Portland is a vibrant, rider-oriented city that will be a strong base for Chrome to imagine international growth, marketing, and continued expansion of ecommerce and retail stores (called HUBS) in the USA and abroad.

The move also makes logistical sense because the company that owns Chrome, Fuerst Group, also owns Keen, a footwear and apparel brand based in Portland.

Slate Olson of Rapha

Slate Olson, shown here at the BikePortland office in 2012, will return to Portland as Chrome’s new president.

Also announced today was that Slate Olson has been hired as the new president of the company. This will be the second time around for Olson, whom you might remember as the man who led Rapha’s first foray outside of the United Kingdom when that high-end fashion brand set up shop in Portland in 2008.

Olson left Rapha in 2014 to take the job of Chief Marketing Officer at Specialized Bicycles in California.

“The move to Portland sets Chrome up for a brave new chapter,” Olson said in a press release issued today. “I am excited to be part of a brand that is a performance cornerstone for riders, but with the attitude and appetite to define the style and culture for those people who are constantly challenging and redefining their cities.”

Chrome joins a stable of other cycling companies that have chosen Portland as a home base. These include Showers Pass, Rapha, Chris King Precision Components/Cielo Cycles, Castelli USA, Portland Design Works, Islabikes USA, and others.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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67 Comments
  • Lester Burnham January 5, 2017 at 10:01 am

    They forgot to mention San Francisco is far more unbearable than Portland to run a business.

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    • Chris I January 5, 2017 at 11:09 am

      Yes, but for how much longer?

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    • dwk January 5, 2017 at 11:16 am

      Aw yes, those horrible blue states for business.
      California #3 best state economy in 2016, Washington #2, Oregon #10.
      Why don’t you move to Mississippi….?

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      • rick January 5, 2017 at 8:32 pm

        The restrictive zoning and approval for high rise towers is insane in SF.

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    • Huey Lewis January 5, 2017 at 11:20 am

      So maybe they should stay there and work to make that better. Fix their own problems (an apparently business hostile environment) before contributing to ours (cost of living is soaring, too many Californians).

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      • Adam H.
        Adam H. January 5, 2017 at 11:40 am

        Yeah how dare they come to Oregon with all their tax revenue and everything.

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty January 5, 2017 at 11:44 am

          Maybe now we’ll finally have revenue to fix our streets!

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        • Huey Lewis January 5, 2017 at 11:46 am

          Says the guy whose rent hasn’t increased this winter. And last winter. And…

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        • Huey Lewis January 5, 2017 at 11:48 am

          But they’ll probably move here without cars like you are so proud of doing so what am I complaining about?! Hey I can’t afford to live in massive chunks of Portland anymore but the tax revenue they brought! Thanks so much!

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        • meh January 6, 2017 at 8:00 am

          How dare they come here and displace current residents.

          Do you think that they are creating new jobs here? No they are moving their Cali staff up.. That means more competition for housing.

          If this weren’t a bike specific company, would you be singing the praises of more California refugees coming to the Rose City and raising the rents?

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          • B. Carfree January 7, 2017 at 2:39 pm

            I thought they were relocating from San Francisco, not Columbia.

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  • Dick Button January 5, 2017 at 10:23 am

    They are leaving all those crazy hills, Man. Welcome to the singlespeed life, Chrome!

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    • PdxMark January 5, 2017 at 1:07 pm

      Singlespeed!? Coasting is a pernicious habit!

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      • Dick Button January 5, 2017 at 4:56 pm

        You know your bike only has the one speed right?

        Fixed is a subcategory.

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  • Hello, Kitty
    Hello, Kitty January 5, 2017 at 10:45 am

    It is all but certain that the primary reason for the move is that Olson wants to live in Portland.

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    • jd January 5, 2017 at 8:21 pm

      Or because Chrome is owned keen. Its a lot easier to run a company when everyone is close together geographically.

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      • jd January 5, 2017 at 8:23 pm

        *owned by keen…sorry

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  • Matheas Michaels January 5, 2017 at 10:54 am

    AKA it’s cheaper here

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  • Huey Lewis January 5, 2017 at 11:11 am

    Great! I’ve been interested in meeting someone from California and this might be a good chance at this! I have so many questions about that state! I hope this isn’t a temporary move and that they tell friends back home that Portland is a fun place to visit!

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    • Adam H.
      Adam H. January 5, 2017 at 11:49 am

      I really will never understand Portland’s obsession with hating on Californians, though I have personally found Portland to a bit hostile to outsiders overall, so maybe it stems from that.

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      • Huey Lewis January 5, 2017 at 12:00 pm

        Seeing as how you’re not from here this isn’t surprising. It’s just like when I lived in Minneapolis and they hated on FIBs. You’re at least familiar with the concept.

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        • Adam H.
          Adam H. January 5, 2017 at 12:04 pm

          I’m familiar with the term FIB, but I’ve only ever heard it used in jest. Some people here lightheartedly joke about Californians too, and that’s okay, but I’ve also been told to “go back home” or to “get out of the neighborhood” on multiple occasions in Portland, which crosses a line. The “jokes” here seem much more sinister in nature. No one in Wisconsin ever told me to “go back to Chicago, you FIB”.

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          • Huey Lewis January 5, 2017 at 12:08 pm

            They probably just didn’t know you well enough is all.

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            • Adam H.
              Adam H. January 5, 2017 at 12:14 pm

              Or perhaps it is you that does not know me well enough. 😉

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              • Huey Lewis January 5, 2017 at 12:22 pm

                Good one, Adam. To be clear, I have zero problems with you (and very regularly agree with your posts). Or anyone on a personal level that moves here. But you have to somehow understand that long time or life long Portland area residents chafe and chafe very hard at the massive influx of people moving here. For some of us this is our *home*. Not some hip flavor of the month place to come be seen or a place to flip houses that are “cheap” compared to where you just moved from. Home.

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              • Adam H.
                Adam H. January 5, 2017 at 12:40 pm

                And that’s fine. Clearly you love your home. Shouldn’t other people be allowed to love Portland for the same reasons you do? Some people’s homes weren’t as awesome as Portland, and that’s a big reason why they moved. Many newcomers may not have the same ideas about things as long-term residents, and I believe that to be a good thing. Diversity of ideas is good for all. The alternative is fear of outsider influence, and that is a dangerous mindset. Rest assured, I did not move here with the intention of displacing long-term residents and tearing down their houses, I was just drawn to this city for all the same reasons you love calling it home.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty January 5, 2017 at 1:43 pm

                I think what really chafes some residents is newcomers telling them how they need to change their city or lifestyle to fit some utopian vision that is not widely shared.

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              • Huey Lewis January 5, 2017 at 2:03 pm

                Adam, I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone that thinks no one should move here ever. But it is possible to love a place to death or into a gross version of it’s former self. Or into some other…thing. A dear friend of mine who owns in a neighborhood I was priced out of, had a house sell on his block for juuuust shy of a million bucks. A million dollars! He bought his house for 70k. “Hey do you want to live next to people who can drop that much on a house?” “No, no I don’t. What will we ever have in common? They are not my people” Indeed, who are these people? They aren’t moving for Portland for the same reasons I live here. A lot of the places and reasons I love Portland aren’t what they were, they’re gone, changed. Boohoo for me! Are they moving here because their home wasn’t cool enough? Boohoo for them. Give me a break.

                I’m not sure where I’m going with all this. Nowhere I guess.

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              • Middle of the Road Guy January 5, 2017 at 2:32 pm

                HK nails it.

                All the people moving here and telling everyone else what they need to do.

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              • soren January 5, 2017 at 3:50 pm

                I welcome the utopian vision of many newcomers when it comes to housing, social equity, and diversity. IMO, this vision stands in contrast to the apathy and greed that facilitated the homogenization of formerly diverse communities in north and northeast portland.

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              • Adam H.
                Adam H. January 5, 2017 at 3:56 pm

                Yeah, how dare people move to Portland and provide a different opinion than the typical Portland echo-chamber.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty January 5, 2017 at 4:21 pm

                The irony is that it is the pressure of newcomers that is driving that very homogenization. That said, I am not sure if they are now more or less diverse than they were 20 years ago.

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              • B. Carfree January 7, 2017 at 2:48 pm

                I’m old enough to remember Oregonians moving en mass to California in search of the greater economic opportunities. In fact, California’s long embrace of people from outside the Golden State is a big reason why it is such an economic and cultural engine.

                Now that some folks from south of the Siskiyous are coming north, not a few of them the off-spring of those Oregonians who went south in days of yore, people here have their knickers in a twist. Time to grow up. Embrace some changes. If humans were to insist on always doing things as they had been done in the past, we’d still be naked on the savanna.

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              • Huey Lewis January 6, 2017 at 8:23 am

                Honey, I know we’ve had a really hard time saving for a down payment as home prices keep rising and rising fast. And the few bids we put out there were squashed by out of state cash buyers that put up thousands more than we have…but I heard something that might make us feel better. We hadn’t thought at all about the tax revenue and all their ideas! So much of both! And previously we didn’t have either in Portland! So we are being saved if you think about it because all our ideas about our city hadn’t made it very livable but Californians had the heart to start moving up here in huge numbers to share their ideas! No more echo chamber! Taxes for schools and roads too! Sure whole streets have had drastic makeovers so fast it makes it hard to believe and you can’t hardly adjust to it and sure they are really starting to look all alike with little big burgers and salt and straw and whoever else but who cares what we think! NEW IDEAS AND TAXES, HONEY.

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              • Paul January 6, 2017 at 11:26 am

                It’s tough all around, but prices are still lower in Portland by a long way than other west coast cities. Not that it really matter, since unaffordable is unaffordable. I moved to San Diego for work few years back and the only tolerable neighborhood which was once very working class was still out of reach. It’s approaching $1,000/sq. foot down there in those areas. F**k that!

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty January 5, 2017 at 12:08 pm

            We have darker hearts and less hotdish. And we absolutely do not joke around.

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      • jered January 5, 2017 at 12:53 pm

        Portlanders don’t just hate Californians, they hate anything new or different, all change is bad. I’ve always felt the hostility comes from a sense of insecurity – fear and hate go hand in hand ya know…

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty January 5, 2017 at 1:47 pm

          Not all change is bad. Just most of it.

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        • Dan A January 5, 2017 at 2:57 pm

          The woods behind my childhood home, once a great place for exploring, building tree forts, and biking on dirt trails, has been mostly taken over by California transplants and their ridiculous McMansions, many of which are not even occupied. They are just being built all over the hill as investment properties.

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          • Chris I January 5, 2017 at 3:17 pm

            And what was there before your childhood home was built?

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            • Dan A January 5, 2017 at 4:51 pm

              Good point I suppose. Though I’d argue that the 1500 sq ft houses in the neighborhood fit in with the rest of the town, whereas the empty 4000-8000 sq ft ‘houses’ that have been built next to them do not.

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      • Todd Boulanger January 5, 2017 at 5:05 pm

        Though the only thing in Portland worse than being a California transplant…is a car commuter from Vancouver (WA). 😉

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  • Adam H.
    Adam H. January 5, 2017 at 11:29 am

    Couldn’t afford the rents in SF, eh? Anyway, good to have another bike-focused business in town, even though their bags are meh. They make great tall winter socks though.

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    • dwk January 5, 2017 at 11:42 am

      I think their backpacks are really nice…

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      • Adam H.
        Adam H. January 5, 2017 at 11:46 am

        I’ve never used their backpacks, but they seem reasonably well-built. I tend to prefer the Mission Workshop stuff, however. Chrome bags seem to rely too much on velcro.

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        • John Liu
          John Liu January 6, 2017 at 11:13 am

          Chrome makes a variety of bags. Some are probably better than others.

          I use a Chrome Warsaw 1 bag (since replaced by Warsaw 2) that is an excellent, rugged, very large messenger backpack.

          I’ve also really liked the Ortlieb backpacks.

          Mission Workshop bags look terrific too, though I’ve never used one – a little spendy for me.

          One criticism I have of all of these bags is they usually lack tabs to hang blinky lights, and are pretty stingy with the reflective surfaces too. I get that black is cool, but there are black retroreflective fabrics.

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  • Alison Fulmer January 5, 2017 at 11:38 am

    Chrome, please “innovate” by having more gear for women cyclists, there are alot of us. And please bring back your knickers, best commuting pants ever.

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    • Chris January 5, 2017 at 12:08 pm

      Alison,

      Swrve knickers are really great. Sadly they are men’s only though 🙁

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  • mtbpdx January 5, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    I do know that Chrome stands behind their products. I had a small blemish on my bag and it was fixed no questions asked; I was given a loaner bag until my bag was repaired. Welcome to Portland Chrome, we need all the jobs we can get.

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  • soren January 5, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    I love my black chrome bag. Probably my only criticism is that the steel buckle is heavy and has started to rust. A carbon fiber buckle would weigh less, resist corrosion, and be more vertically compliant.

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    • Middle of the Road Guy January 5, 2017 at 2:34 pm

      I can’t believe you made a joke that I actually laughed at.

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    • Chris I January 5, 2017 at 3:18 pm

      They didn’t chrome-plate the buckle?

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  • mh January 5, 2017 at 12:57 pm

    The more bike businesses, the less pushback – I hope – from the PBA, et al.

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  • Pete S. January 5, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    Yeah ok, but will they be bringing back the shants?

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  • Anthony January 5, 2017 at 1:56 pm

    Adam H.
    Some people’s homes weren’t as awesome as Portland, and that’s a big reason why they moved.
    Recommended 2

    There is certainly an argument that there’s value in trying to improve the place that you are to try and make it better, rather than just giving up on it and moving to another place that you perceive as better. How is the rest of America going to become more bike-friendly (as just one example) if people just keep leaving their hometowns to move to bike-friendlier cities? Smaller cities need advocates too. And politically, the country just becomes more divided as people continue moving to places where other people think like them and there’s a lack of exposure to diversity of thought.

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    • Dan A January 5, 2017 at 2:59 pm

      When other cities want to become bike friendly, they can do it a lot faster than in Portland.

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    • B. Carfree January 7, 2017 at 3:01 pm

      Numbers game. If PDX has one in seven people riding and “home” has one in a hundred, getting up to a critical mass that will make for a truly bike friendly city is only feasible in one of those two locales. It makes sense to move to PDX and try to help make success where it just might happen than to stay out on the further frontier.

      Imagine a Portland where a hundred thousand dedicated cyclists all moved in next year. I daresay that would be a tremendous improvement over the status quo.

      When I meet someone who has come from out of state, I love to cultivate their latent desire to experiment with a less car-intensive existence. Many refuges from places like SoCal (ugh, who can live there?) are quite enthusiastic about changing their habits along with their geography.

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  • Todd Boulanger January 5, 2017 at 5:11 pm

    Slate Olsen & Chrome – Welcome to the Portland Region!

    Once you land and find office space…give me a call if you need some interior bike parking work for your staff parking. (Keen called me in last year for some concepts.)

    Todd Boulanger
    VP of Operations and Design
    Bikestation

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  • SD January 5, 2017 at 5:12 pm

    Cool

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  • Vince January 6, 2017 at 8:25 am

    A less than warm weclome for people moving here? It’s nothing new….
    “I urge them to come and come many, many times to enjoy the beauty of Oregon. But I also ask them, for heaven’s sake, don’t move here to live.” Gov. Tom McCall
    Tom was being nice. That was just talk. There were actual Oregon laws that that banned Blacks, Asians, Hawaiians, and others from living here. It was well into the 20th century before they were offically repealed. There were Portland laws banning Asians, sunset laws that required people of color to leave towns before dark, among other restrictions.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu January 6, 2017 at 11:06 am

    Portland will be better off if it attracts good jobs rather than turning them away. A good-paying job created here benefits not just the person who holds that job, but all the people who then hold jobs supplying the services that the first person consumes.

    Job growth here does mean population growth and increased demand for housing. The development industry is pulling permits and building at a high rate and housing supply is accelerating to catch up with demand.

    There are specific negative effects, but they should be addressed with specific initiatives, rather than trying to stop overall job growth.

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  • B. Carfree January 7, 2017 at 3:02 pm

    Numbers game. If PDX has one in seven people riding and “home” has one in a hundred, getting up to a critical mass that will make for a truly bike friendly city is only feasible in one of those two locales. It makes sense to move to PDX and try to help make success where it just might happen than to stay out on the further frontier.

    Imagine a Portland where a hundred thousand dedicated cyclists all moved in next year. I daresay that would be a tremendous improvement over the status quo.

    When I meet someone who has come from out of state, I love to cultivate their latent desire to experiment with a less car-intensive existence. Many refuges from places like SoCal (ugh, who can live there?) are quite enthusiastic about changing their habits along with their geography.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • B. Carfree January 7, 2017 at 3:03 pm

      That was supposed to be a reply to Anthony. Oops.

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    • Adam H.
      Adam H. January 7, 2017 at 5:04 pm

      Exactly. While cycling was not the only reason I moved to Portland, it certainly was a major factor. And I can still say that cycling overall in Portland is far better than Chicago (even if there are a few specific things Portland could learn from Chicago). I also sold my car before I moved here. I think it’s great if people want to move to Portland to bike more and be less reliant on cars.

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      • Mossby Pomegranate January 8, 2017 at 10:48 am

        Yeah that’s great if you live in parts of the city where its safe to be totally reliant on a bike. But sadly that not the case for many of us.

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