A few years back, Ben Lewis’ girlfriend came home with a hip Chrome messenger bag. It was voluminous and durable yet simple with just one large flap, some Velcro and a couple of internal pockets.
Lewis took one look at the mass-produced bag and declared, “I can make that.”
Two vintage Singer sewing machines later, Lewis, also a part-time employee of Village Bike and Ski in Sunriver, had himself a side business. The 31-year-old now crafts messenger bags, cycling caps, laptop cases and accessory pouches for cyclists and does so locally in The Workhouse, a relatively new community art and craft space that’s situated behind The Sparrow Bakery.
Lewis has tapped into a local market that’s plump with potential customers: the Central Oregon cycling community. And already he’s busily cranking out cycling caps for area bike shops and even regional cycling teams.
His caps, made individually and by hand, are crafted from thrift, vintage and found material and sold locally, thereby eliminating the expense and waste associated with long-haul shipping. Selling and buying locally also gives a boost to the Central Oregon economy. It’s also of benefit to Lewis.
“Living in a place you love and pursuing your passion is worth a lot,” said Sunnyside Sports co-owner Gary Bonacker. “And it’s a steam-roll thing that goes well beyond us just selling hats,” Bonacker said, referring to the mutually beneficial relationship of working with and supporting local vendors.
Sunnyside Sports is just one of a number of Bend bike shops that stock local and regional products, including caps from Pinch Flat Designs.
“Sometimes there’s a story to tell,” Bonacker said of the local products. “And it sets us apart.”
There’s a myriad of reasons why one should buy locally, the tangible reasons are just the beginning.
Meeting your neighbor, creating a bond, however fleeting, and understanding the process behind the product is a valuable side benefit of buying locally.
“It’s important to know who you’re buying from,” Lewis said.
Potential customers can visit Lewis, pick out fabrics and collaborate with him on custom designs—call it micro, as opposed to mass, production.
The goal, said Lewis, is get to a point where Pinch Flat Designs is a full-time job.
“I like to build. This satisfies my need to have hyper-focus on what I’m doing,” Lewis said.
Look for him and his creations at The Workhouse, in local bike shops and at Oregon bike races.
Or, if you want to chat about designs, catch him at the neighboring Sparrow Bakery, a local cafe where Lewis happily reinvests his hard-earned dollars.