Rickshaw Bagworks Factory Tour
Rickshaw Bagworks is a San Francisco bagmaker founded in 2007, but that relatively recent date doesn’t tell the whole story of the experience behind the name. Founded by former Timbuk2 CEO Mark Dwight with help from Timbuk2 founder Rob Honeycut, Rickshaw has has a lot of experience in it’s company DNA, all the way from the 1980′s San Francisco messenger world and a one-man bag shop to the top of the messenger bag market and back.
At the heart of Rickshaw Bagworks is local manufacturing, and carrying very little finished stock day to day. While their facility is chock full of large rolls of Cordura and other fabrics, there are surprisingly few finished pieces around to be seen. Besides the completed bags in their retail store, all of the other bags are made to order for the customer and shipped out daily — no overstock of last year’s colors, no piles of bag styles that missed the mark, no blow-out sales on bad decisions. As each order comes in materials is cut, customized per spec (if any, embroidery / screened art), and placed into bread racks ready for the assembly line. A small band of skilled women run the sewing machine stations, each with their own piece of the assembly to do, and each capable of switching places with one another to prevent burnout and match capacity with order needs. I envy their ability to turn rolls of fabric into finished, high end bags with little more than scissors and a high quality sewing machine. And of course the patterns to make it happen, and even a fancy laser cutting machine for certain shapes… Even with an unannounced visit all appears to be a well oiled machine.
On the retail end of things there is a shop area of the factory where customers can see and feel finished products, and either walk out with a finished one on the spot or pick their fabric colors and tag styles and other options for a custom piece. Riding by and have a flat or need to make some other bike adjustments? No problem, as just inside the door is a shop area open to anyone riding by that may need to do some light wrench work to keep rolling. These are bike people making bags for other bike (and non-bike) people.
Manufacturing, management and retail in one space isn’t something you see very often, but it seems to be working at Rickshaw. If you’re in San Francisco it’s worth the visit, and if not it’s worth visiting their site at www.rickshawbags.com