Workspace: Christopher Williams, president, Burro Bags
What began in 2008 in Springfield as an exercise in designing one copy of a better bicycle messenger bag has evolved into a product development and manufacturing facility, Internet marketing operation and retail store at 228 E. Forsyth St.
At first glance, you might not notice the headquarters of Burro Bags LLC, since the sign on the building hasn’t changed since it was The Letter Shop.
“I love old facades and we have an agreement with the landlord to not change the sign,” said Burro Bags co-founder and President Christopher Williams.
Since Burro Bags moved Downtown in May 2010, not much has changed in terms of the building, Williams said — but the same is not true of the product line.
The company was founded on using recycled billboard material for the interior lining of its messenger bags. Williams said it was a low-cost way to repurpose the material, which was durable and virtually free of cost. The outdoor advertising industry has since adapted its practices to use less durable material that is more economical and easier to install. So, Burro Bags started using new material similar to the original.
Williams said that with steady annual growth in terms of bags sold, the product line has adapted to offer fewer items. The best-selling sizes and colors represent the majority of the company’s income.
A product was added about two years ago that has become one of Burro Bags’ top sellers – a “foot retention system” for cyclists, also known as a pedal strap.
Williams said it’s a low-cost product that has been a hit with bicycle shops to the point that Burro is producing private-label versions that combine the Burro brand with the shops.
“We like people to support their local bike shops. Having their logo and ours on the straps makes the product more personal,” said Williams.
Products under development have been inspired by customers looking for items they can’t find on the market, Williams said. Two products in the development stage are a new type of duffle bag and one designed for skateboarders.
“Skateboarders can’t take their boards on a bus unless it’s in a bag and a backpack isn’t too big enough,” Williams said.
“I wish we had time to build all the ideas people bring us,” he said.