While many companies turn to Asia for manufacturing, Marc Bay decided to instead invest in his hometown for Detroit Cargo Company, which makes leather handlebar and saddle bags.
Bay, a 20-year veteran of the motorcycle industry and a life-long bicycle enthusiast, started the business with a friend from the apparel industry.
“Apparel remains so import based, so I wanted to do something different,” Bay told BikeRadar. “I had worked with motorcycles for all those years but had a garage full of bicycles, which remain my first love.”
With his roots in apparel and fabrics, Bay turned his attention to bicycle bags. But instead of trying to compete on price, Bay headed the other direction with leather bags in the $80 to $84 range.
“We decided to be competitive with quality bicycle luggage,” Bay said. “And by opting to do the production locally we took out the high shipping costs, and do low production runs.”
After setting up shop it was slow going for the Detroit Cargo Company, and Bay noted that there were learning curves along the way, especially as luggage and bags are a different mindset from making apparel. But in the end things did start to roll.
Detroit Cargo Company makes unique leather bags with a retro look, the type of thing that would look wildly out of place on a race bike, but at home on a retro urban machine.
“We identified a need, and created what is really a bicycle fashion accessory,” he said. “It has function but I will be the first to say that no one needs the product. We know that you could go buy a nylon product made in China for 20 percent of what we are charging, but we’re really about that fashion accessory for the kids on retro-styled bikes.”
Detroit Cargo Company currently offers just three products. Its site also lists a tablet bag as in the works.
“We have more pieces in the line, but haven’t made them yet,” Bay said.
He also added that the material choice required some serious thought. When the company was still very much in the planning stages he and his partners looked at the best synthetic materials on the market. At the same time he wanted to design a product that would have as low a carbon impact as possible – quite a departure for many products that come out of Detroit.
But in the end the company, which consists of a vegetarian and ‘near vegetarian’ opted to go with natural leather.
“We’re buying cow hide, and we accept that it is a byproduct of the food industry,” Bay admits, adding, “I’m not a vegetarian but I will admit that weeks go by without me eating meat.”
With that in mind, if customers ask for it, Detroit Cargo Company is offering for feedback and would consider going the synthetic route. It is just one way this Detroit-based bicycle company is rolling its own way.