published Sunday, June 15th, 2014

Embedded: On the street with a bicycle delivery man

  • photo
    John Fentress uses a bicycle to make deliveries for Velo Coffee Roasters.
    Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

WHOSE VIEW?

Name: John Fentress

Age: 22

Job: Velo Coffee Roasters bicycle delivery man

Wage: $10/hour plus profit split with owner Guru Shah

Years in the job: One year

Best part:“I don’t call it a job. I have only fun working here.”

Worst part:“Sometimes I get over-caffeinated. But everyone here loves it when I do.”

People give John Fentress some weird looks when he does his job.

The 22-year-old attaches a long metal trailer to his bicycle, fills it with bags of coffee from Velo Coffee Roasters and pedals through downtown making deliveries once every week.

“It’s always a head-turning moment,” Fentress said, laughing.

Some people wave at him, others just stare. Others yell at him to get off the road.

“People don’t realize it’s legal,” Fentress said. “But if you look at the laws, it says bicycles are not allowed on the sidewalk and they’re meant for the road.”

Fentress starts each route from Velo Coffee Roasters Southside shop, where the four-year-old company roasts between 400 and 500 pounds of coffee every week, churning it all out in 8-pound batches from one little roaster.

On delivery days, Fentress loads up the bike-trailer and pedals from the Southside through downtown and out to the North Shore, delivering wholesale orders of coffee along the way.

He typically puts in between 10 and 15 miles across his routes. The company even used to deliver by bike up Signal Mountain, but quickly discovered that trip just wasn’t quite worth it. Still, Velo employees prefer bicycles over trucks.

“We like bikes,” Fentress said. “There is a healthy skepticism of motorized travel in all of us. For me, I don’t know how to work on a car, but I know how to work on bicycles. Everything is manual, mechanical and very there’s-the-problem.”

So come rain, snow or 100-degree temperatures, Fentress hits the streets. And while he’s glad to be helping the environment, that’s only a part of the reason he and Velo Coffee Roasters avoid traditional delivery methods.

“It’s really fun,” Fentress said. “Since it’s possible and we love bicycles, we do it that way. Bottom line is we’re having fun, saving the world and revolutionizing one pedal stroke at a time.”

If you have an idea for Embedded, contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or sbradbury@timesfreepress.com.

about Shelly Bradbury...

Shelly Bradbury covers police and crime in Chattanooga and Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She's been with the paper since 2012, working first as an intern and then as a business reporter. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint ...

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