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July 26, 2023

R.E.Load, the Philly messenger bag company, to close after 25 years

Owners Roland Burns and Ellie Lum began making bicycle gear from an apartment kitchen in 1998. Their products have since been sold across the globe

Business Closures
Reload Bags Philly @reloadbags/Instagram

R.E.Load Bags, in Northern Liberties, specializes in handmade bike messengers bags. The business plans to close later this year, ending a 25-year run.

The clock is ticking for cyclists to get fresh messenger bags and other accessories from R.E.Load Bags, the Northern Liberties shop known for its handmade packs.

This year will be the company's final year in business, the owners said Tuesday. 

"While we love what we do and the community that we do it for, we've realized over the past few years that there are still other challenges and pursuits that we'd like to take on," the owners wrote on Instagram. "Twenty-five years is quite a long time to do one thing!"

Founded in 1998 by Roland Burns and Ellie Lum, R.E.Load Bags specializes in custom, canvas bike gear made from scratch. They started out of the kitchen of a shared apartment and soon developed a following for the quality of their made-to-order products. The business initially offered a single sling bag model, called the Courier, but eventually sold messenger bags in various sizes and designs.

The company's products include a stem bag called the Hoagie Hauler, a Philly export that's become well-traveled over the years.

"We've sold bags all around the globe, and have had partners helping with the brand in Japan, Germany and Denmark," the owners wrote on Instagram. "We've traveled far and wide to messenger events big and small, and have sponsored hundreds and hundreds of events and fundraisers along the way."

Burns and Lum said their bags have been featured in movies and have drawn some of their biggest role models to the shop.

"We've run R.E.Load exactly the way we wanted to (which is part of the reason we're not rich now)," they said. "Carving our own path has made us happy and proud about our legacy in Philadelphia and beyond."

The shop is still accepting orders. The owners decided to announce the pending closure now to give people a chance to get new gear while they still can. They have not shared a closing date. 

"To everybody out there that has supported us in any way over the past quarter century, you have our heartfelt love and appreciation," they wrote.