Pushing Beyond the Envelope
It’s sometime after 2 am as I’m shepherded deeper into the dark and nearly-deserted expanse of Northeast Minneapolis. At a steady 25 MPH clip a landscape of small residential buildings and graffiti-lined warehouses fades past. I’m lost. But Ben isn’t.
We stop at a convenience store. I catch my breath and follow Ben inside, keeping half an eye on our bikes. I don’t know quite what kind of neighborhood this is, but I have an idea.
“Two packs of Parliaments,” Ben says to the cashier.
He thinks better of smoking one from the pack he’s just bought. He grabs a square from a different pack, lights up, takes a few hard puffs and we’re back on our way.
Ben “SK” James, one of four owner-riders at Rock-It Courier, had gotten a call. Somebody needed cigarettes in a part of town where they were scarce, and Rock-It, a new service established earlier this year, fills a niche that had previously gone unfilled in this Midwestern city: anything that can fit into a giant messenger bag delivered anywhere within the city limits, any time you want it.
It’s obvious that an industry that had for decades been sustained largely by delivering pieces of paper would suffer some blows as commerce found its footing in the digital age. What’s less obvious is how that industry would begin to reinvent itself in the face of a recession, forging new paradigms and ways of doing business in the shadows of the very skyscrapers whose tenants have increasingly favored ones and zeros over sling bags and envelopes.