Chrome vending machine is attempt to “rethink retail”

At the Hawthorne Asylum food cart pod.
(Photo: Chrome Industries)

Portland based Chrome Industries, a brand known for their iconic messenger backs and backpacks, has installed a mask vending machine in southeast Portland.

The move is part of what company President Steve McCallion says is an attempt to maintain a connection to the community as Covid-19 restrictions have crimped their usual way of doing business.

Chrome calls their stores “Hubs” as a testament to how important in-person gatherings are to their operation. Chrome’s Portland Hub has long been a popular hang-out for professional bike couriers and in 2018 we shared how the company has also helped the local fixed-gear freestyle riding scene.

Chrome opened a Hub in Portland in 2012 and moved their entire company headquarter here in 2017.

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With all retail moved online, Chrome sees vending machines as one way to stitch the brand back into the urban fabric. Their first machine in Portland is installed at the Hawthorne Asylum food cart pod (1080 SE Madison St).

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Can you sew? Portland-based Chrome Industries will teach you how to make face masks

This is what you need.
(Photo: Chrome)

Local bike bag and apparel maker Chrome Industries calls their retail stores “Hubs”. Now those hubs — including their location in Old Town — are the center of a new effort to help battle coronavirus infections.

Chrome announced today they’re galvanizing their global legion of fans around a new mission: to help fill the nationwide gap in N95 masks for healthcare workers. (*Note: N95 masks require special material. Please see update below for more about this.)

“There is a basic need on the front lines, and our community has an opportunity to help,” said Chrome Industries President Steve McCallion in a statement from the company today.

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Chrome Industries will relocate from San Francisco to Portland

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:

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Create your own custom bag at Chrome’s downtown store

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward
Chrome custom counter at Portland store-13

Lara Kessler, a full-time seamstress at the
Chrome retail store, walks a customer through
the ordering process.
(Photos J. Maus/BikePortland)

In a town where so many people get around by bike or transit, having a good (and waterproof) bag is essential. That’s probably one reason why Chrome opened up a retail store here two years ago (to go along with existing stores in Chicago, New York City, Seattle, and San Francisco (their hometown).

Now the company, known for its iconic messenger bags and roots in courier culture, is touting their ability to offer custom bags sewn and stitched as customers watch.

Chrome spokesman Billy Sinkford said Chrome has offered custom bags in the past via their online store, but they’ve only beefed up the custom program at the retail level in the past two years. Sinkford said the in-store custom option is a way for Chrome to strengthen their connection to local customers. “It’s about integrating deeper into the community… We want people using bags they’re stoked to use.”

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Thieves smash window, steal bags from downtown Chrome store

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

Smashed window at Chrome store.
(Photo: Chrome Industries)

Thieves smashed the large front window of the Chrome Industries store at 425 SW 10th Avenue in Portland in the wee hours of Monday morning.

According to Store Manager Lilly Eidsness, they broke the glass and “grabbed whatever they could reach.” In this case that was five bags — which were hand-sewn custom bags made by in-house seamstress Lara Kessler. The total value of all the bags is $630 and the broken window is estimated to cost $1,000 to replace. Chrome is open for business while the window is being replaced.

The custom bags were one-of-a-kind, which leaves Eidsness hopeful they will catch someone’s eye and end up being recovered (see photo below). Below is a photo of the stolen bags followed by a description of each one:

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First look at Chrome’s new retail store in downtown Portland

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward
New Chrome store in downtown Portland-21

Look what just opened downtown!
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Chrome, a well-known bag and urban bicycling/lifestyle apparel brand, opened a new retail store in downtown Portland yesterday. Staffers from the company’s San Francisco headquarters spent three weeks completely renovating a 1,300 square foot space at 425 SW 10th Avenue (around the corner from the Ace Hotel and up the street from Powell’s). Portland is just the fourth city where Chrome has opened a store, and we’re by far the smallest. Their other stores are in San Francisco (their headquarters), New York City, and Chicago.

Chrome was founded 17 years ago in Boulder, Colorado and moved to San Francisco a few years later. Since then, due in large part to their iconic messenger bags, they’ve extended their product line and now offer apparel, backpacks, and footwear. While their gear is not bike-specific, the brand lives and breathes urban biking and everything is made with the assumption that the customer will move around the city on a bike.

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