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Chrome Industries Returns to Denver

The foremost manufacturer of messenger bags left the Mile High City in 2002 to set up shop in San Francisco. Thirteen years later, the brand is reintroducing itself to the urban cyclists that popularized its packs.

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Chrome Industries, the maker of marquee messenger bags for hippies, yuppies, businesspeople, and bike people, has come home to the Front Range. The recently opened retail hub in LoDo joins the ranks of eight global locations in places like New York City, Chicago, Osaka, and San Francisco, where the company is now headquartered. The opening is timely, as the firm is celebrating its 20th birthday this year—a triumph that wouldn’t have been possible without the brand’s Colorado roots.

The company began in 1995 in Boulder and moved to Denver shortly after, where it stayed until 2002. Each successive opening since the company departed Denver has been highly strategic: Chrome doesn’t open up shop until its convinced that a city fits its young, creative demographic (Minneapolis has a Chrome hub, but Los Angeles doesn’t). Despite the brand’s local lineage, company president Chris Silverman scouted the downtown area himself before he green-lighted the new shop. “We were looking at different neighborhoods, seeing foot traffic and people on bikes coming by,” he says. “The amount of traffic we saw on bikes, with Chrome products, customers just cruising around here—a lot of it just had a good feel.”

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(Check out the Denverite’s guide to a stylish bike commute)

Now that Chrome’s new hub has opened downtown, Silverman entrusted Portland employees Amanda Sundvor and Ronnie Hart to reintroduce the brand to Denver’s cycling community. They donated 10 percent of June’s profits to Bike Denver—a two-wheeled advocacy group that supports bicycle infrastructure and legislation—and the store is sponsoring the National American Cycle Courier Championships in September. Even the hub’s decor is local: Denver artists contributed pieces of messenger culture to line the walls and ceiling. “It’s important to come back and support the biking community,” Hart says. “[The hub] really supports the local culture of music, art, fashion, and more.”

True to form, the hub was christened with an alley cat, an unsanctioned bike race through the city that ended with the store’s opening party on June 26. The 15th Street shop brimmed with bushy beards, flowing flannels, and exposed calves covered in tattoos and chain lube–markers. Maybe it was free tacos and the six kegs of Pabst Blue Ribbon that drew the crowd. Or maybe the men and women of Denver who make their money on bikes were willing to spend it on a brand many of them were already wearing. Either way, Hart and Sundvor need not worry about the success of the new shop. For Chrome, and Denverites, it’s all in the bag.

Check out Chrome Industries at its new downtown location (1331 15th St.), or view the collection online.

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