Meet the Shopkeeper: Chrome Industries
Making downtown Seattle more bikeable, one military-grade bag at time.
You've seen that red seatbelt buckle strapped across nearly every biker babe in the city, and now San Francisco-based Chrome Industries has its own Seattle Hub and sixth retail location in the old Jack Straw spot on First Ave.
The industrial space (conveyor belt included) officially opened on April 27; the staff built most of the fixtures by hand using reclaimed materials. There’s a custom sewing station where an in-house seamstress can build you a bespoke bag or fix an old one.
Besides the signature messenger bags, Chrome also stocks plenty of super NW weather friendly shoes, clothing and accessories meant to take you straight from riding to happy hour And while downtown isn’t always known for its friendliness to two-wheeled commuters, store manager Ashley Thompson hopes that's changing.
What song or album is playing on your store’s sound system right now?
Thompson: KEXP! We are lucky enough to have a great radio station in Seattle where you can turn it on and count on there being good music, so we take advantage of it.
What was your first job in retail? What did you love or hate about it and how does it compare to what you do now?
I started working at a local bike shop when I was 15 and knew very little about bikes. I loved challenging myself and learning about something new, and came to love the culture as well. I've used cycling as a mode of transportation around the city for years now, and I’ve rocked Chrome gear since the beginning.
What’s your favorite thing in the store right now?
I've been using the Chrome Soyuz for more than four years and it is great bag to have in Seattle because I can trust to that my laptop won't be wet after I commute to work. As far as what I have my eye on now? It would have to be the Truk Pro Series shoes (in grey). They look similar to a pair of Vans at first glance, but are actually much more durable. They also have a nice understated reflective strip on the heel, and I can install my cleats and ride with my SPD pedals.
Where do you shop when you’re not at your store?
While trying to avoid being too "classic Seattle," I buy a lot of my clothes at Goodwill. The style of clothes I wear varies, so it's nice to shop somewhere with so many random options. You never know what you are going to leave with! Buffalo Exchange in University District also gets a good amount of business from me.
What do you love about your store’s neighborhood?
Even though I grew up in Seattle, I don’t spend much time in this area unless I have a friend in town visiting and they want to check out Pike Place. However, since I started at Chrome, I’ve discovered a lot of really cool (and affordable) restaurants and shops, as well as some delicious coffee.
What restaurants and coffee shops do you recommend?
Owl N’ Thistle on Post Alley has the best fish and chips, Ferry Noodle House is a fast and delicious lunch spot, and Fonté Cafe is one of my standard coffee stops.
Sometime in June we will also be opening Chrome Coffee, a coffee bar serving Blue Bottle from San Francisco. It will be great for people to grab a coffee while they shop around or stop by on their way to work.
What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened in your store?
Nothing too crazy has happened here…yet. There was a lot going on during construction, and unfortunately my wallet did get swept up and sent through the trash compacter. Huge bummer!