Since the inception of Velo City Bags in 2008, owner and creator Nathan Larsen has adorned cyclists and others with handmade, colorful and well built messenger bags and backpacks as they cruise around the city. As his bags have caught on, he made the long-awaited move into his first storefront in downtown Salt Lake in mid-February. I sat down with Larsen in his new shop to pick his brain on the new location and the high-quality goods within.
SLUG: What led you to expand from being solely web-based? Was the decision made in reaction to Velo City’s growth?
Larsen: Not really. The person I was renting from at my old space, he was moving and I had to [leave], so I thought, “Fuck it. Why not just go for it: open a retail store.” That’s what I’ve wanted to do anyway, so I just decided I might as well do it now. I wasn’t really ready for it, but I was just like, “I might as well make it work.”
SLUG: Was there any rhyme or reason to your selection of this location?
Larsen: Cost. I wanted to be in the downtown area for sure because cyclists support me a lot, and that’s where most cyclists are. That was a big part, but, like I said: cost … affordable space … I kind of just jumped into it, and I didn’t want to get loans.
SLUG: Will you only sell your own products? If not, what other products might you currently sell or plan to sell?
Larsen: I’ve actually been looking at stuff that will complement my products. I sell pedal straps, so I’ve been looking at pedals so people can buy the pedals and the straps together, because it just makes sense, and people are asking. It would just make it easier for the people that are coming in the shop … I’ve been looking at other little things—but not too much ’cause I have limited space. The main focus is just the bags … The [pedals] I really like are Shadow Conspiracys—they’re a BMX platform pedal. I probably will bring those in.
SLUG: Now that you have a physical location, what does your production rate look like?
Larsen: The spring and summertime, that’s when things get really busy, so we’ll see if things change. I don’t know—I might have to have my wife in here, helping me cut some stuff out—we’ll find out … Now I have space to fill and I’ll see something empty, and I’ll be like, “I have to fill that.”
SLUG: In the four or so years that you’ve been around, what has changed in terms of the products you make?
Larsen: I’ve added a bunch of new products. The messenger bag was the first bag I ever made. It’s gone through changes. Nothing severe, but I’ve made little alterations like the strap positions for more comfort and made the body a little bit wider in certain ways, but nothing too drastic. I’ve added backpacks and roll-tops … I started doing wallets because I had a bunch of scraps and I thought, “Why waste it?”
SLUG: Has there been any new, special product to celebrate your opening?
Larsen: I did some webbing belts. I just needed to fill some space, and I’ve been selling those like crazy—I never thought I would … People were coming and demanding little mobile [phone] pouches, and I started making those, and those have been going really well, too. People can come in and talk to me, [and] if the demand’s there, I can make it. I don’t have to go to some factory, so I can make changes or whatever, really quick, on the fly.
SLUG: What will the new storefront give to Salt Lake City’s bicycle community?
Larsen: I don’t think it’s just the bicycle community. It’s just something new that Salt Lake City hasn’t seen before, where you can come in and feel the materials. You can pick what you want to add to your bag—you can almost design it from the ground up—and you can see and meet the person who’s making it. I think it’s just unique in that sense … For the cycling community, we’ll be putting on events throughout the year. Last year, we did an event called Velo Weekend. We’re going to be doing that again this year [on June 29 and 30]. It’s a two-day event, and it’s packed full of different, urban cycling events … It’s probably the biggest urban cycling event in Salt Lake.
Drop by the new Velo City Bags store on 366 S. 500 E., suite 102, between noon and 6 p.m., Monday – Saturday. Chat with Larsen and see what he has to offer—observe and touch all the fabrics and materials that he uses to make the magic come to life. Also, if you’re more of the pajama-jammin’, shop-online type, you can visit velocitybags.com, order a bag or some accessories and pick it up later.