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Messenger Mailing List -- [messengers] Pedaling his business

Messenger Mailing List Archives

Joe Hendry -- [messengers] Pedaling his business

Date: 2003/03/27 11:53
From: Joe Hendry


Pedaling his business

Zippy Delivery covers downtown area on bicycle

By Lisa Haarlander
Buffalo News, March 26, 2003


Mike Rizzo, owner of Zippy Delivery, is on the job in downtown Buffalo.

With a satchel over his shoulder and bike helmet in hand, Michael Rizzo
waits in the lobby of Gresens & Gillen as lawyers put the finishing
touches on a document. A minute later, Rizzo runs out the door, jumps
on his bicycle and gets the papers to the courthouse before closing.

Speed and reliability are what Rizzo has built Zippy Delivery around, a
bicycle messenger service now in its second year.

"This is a very trust-oriented job," he said. "It could cost them money
or a case."

Rizzo's company is a one-man operation. He carries his office on his
back in the form of a cell phone and Dell Pocket PC. For $8, Zippy
Delivery will take a document or package anywhere in the downtown
Buffalo area between the waterfront and North Street.


Gresens & Gillen has used Zippy Delivery since Rizzo started the
company in February 2001.

"His service is impeccable," said Faith Carberry, office manager. "We
use him almost on a daily basis. We used to send our own employees, but
he's saving us time, money and creating more efficiencies."

Bike messenger services are most common in congested East Coast cities,
such as New York.

"It's a dangerous way to go," said Bill Goodman, executive director of
the New York State Messenger & Courier Association. "There's accidents
continually, but they reach places that motorized or ordinary foot
messengers find difficult to get to quickly."

No separate information is available for bike messengers, but overall
the courier business is down 20 percent to 25 percent so far this year,
Goodman said.

"It's been declining steadily since 9/11, but only in the last six
months has it shown such sharp drop offs," he said.

At work is a tough economy where companies are looking for ways to save
money. Many are increasingly using technology that allows them to send
documents and images using e-mail and the Internet.

"When the faxes came out, everyone said the messenger industry was
dead," Goodman said. "That didn't happen. E-mail has taken its toll on
the industry, but messengers aren't going anywhere."

Lawyers often want documents hand delivered, and architects need plans
that cannot be sent electronically. The number of jobs varies, but
Rizzo estimates he rides 30 miles to 40 miles a day on his one-speed
bike.

"Because of the amount of snow and slush, I don't need it getting all
my gears jammed up, but it mades pedaling tougher," Rizzo said.

Zippy Delivery has weathered feet of snow, blizzards, 90-plus degree
summer days and 50 mph winds.

"The past two months have been brutal," he said. "They've been the
coldest in the two years I've been doing it."

And the worst place to make a delivery is the Federal Building on Huron
Street because of the metal detectors and tight security.

Rizzo does not yet make enough money to support himself (his wife works
full-time). Zippy Delivery is turning a small profit, he said, and
business is up 50 percent over last year. He's found direct mailings
and word of mouth are the best ways to recruit new customers. Rizzo is
now adding new services, such as legal research. If the company grows
large enough, Rizzo would like to get an office and hire bike
messengers.

"There are days when I wonder what more I can be doing to grow the
business," Rizzo said. "Then there are other days when I'm pedaling
like crazy and wondering when I can hire some help. It's just been a
crazy roller coaster ride."

e-mail: lhaarlander@buffnews.com





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