Family-owned Chicago Messenger Service keeps growing. Working to stay ahead of competition from 100 other delivery companies in Chicago, the 52-year-old business, located at 1600 S. Ashland Ave. in Pilsen, does everything from bringing hush-hush deliveries to celebrities’ homes to delivering orders for deep-rooted Chicago companies like Eli’s Cheesecake, Garrett Popcorn, Grainger, Manny’s Deli and Walgreens, mostly within 50 miles. Brad Factor — a vice president with the company whose late grandfather Hymen “Hy” Factor started Chicago Messenger Service in 1964 — spoke with reporter Sandra Guy. An edited transcript follows.
Q: People’s first reaction to the name Chicago Messenger Service might be it’s a bike messenger company. What kinds of business do you do?
A: Bike delivery is Chicago Messenger Service’s smallest division. The Chicago delivery business has evolved in the past couple of years. Many companies started coming after it, such as UberRUSH, Seamless, Postmates and GrubHub. Not only do we contract with bikes but with cars, vans and trucks as well.
We specialize in refrigerated and frozen shipments, helping to deliver everything from hot food to full trailer loads of food products. And we supply to restaurants, hotels, distributors, grocery stores and the airports. Our fastest-growing service now is “last-mile distribution.”
We even offer delivery of office supplies — such as cases of paper and ink cartridges — to a person’s desk.
Our customers don’t want to deal with strangers or startup companies. Longevity has played a crucial role in our success. Many of our employees have been with us more than 20 years. The couriers are independent contractors who set their own hours and choose whether to accept assignments.
Q: What deliveries might surprise people?
A: We work with many of the biggest chocolate companies in Chicago. We also deliver the red “rally towels” for the Blackhawks’ playoff games. The items we deliver are endless. We work with big-box retailers, small boutiques, marketing firms, banks, farms, hospitals, pharmacies, blood centers and food and wine distributors, among others. We still do the deliveries of paperwork and blueprints, as well as payroll routes and medical specimens.
Q: What’s your opinion of the technology coming on strong in your industry, such as apps and drones?
A: It’s exciting. I like to fly drones myself as a hobby. However, I’m not sold on drones for delivery in Chicago, especially downtown. I definitely see drones coming to rural areas.
Q: How has Chicago Messenger Service responded to other delivery services’ efforts to take over the local turf?
A: In the 1930s, my great-grandfather, William, owned a kosher butcher shop on the old West Side, at 15th and Central Park. My grandfather became fascinated with the delivery business as he delivered meat via streetcar. He bought a station wagon and ran all hours of the day and night. He went up and down all the buildings downtown, selling while delivering.
We’ve been approached by many of the same-day delivery companies coming into Chicago, most from Silicon Valley, to form a partnership. They don’t have expertise in making deliveries. Logistic problems can’t be solved with an app alone. I’ve told them the way they’re doing business is not going to work long-term, and two of them have since gone under.
Our company is 100 percent family-owned. My father, Bill Factor, is president and CEO, overseeing operations, finances and accounts payable. My sister, Amanda Factor, sells, heads our social media and works with operations. If one of us has to make a delivery, we’re hopping in the car, ready to go. We just love Chicago.
Q: What do you do for fun?
A: I thoroughly enjoy golf, snowboarding and music — including country, house music, hip hop and rock. I’m currently watching the “Sons of Anarchy” series. My wife, Jamie, works on the events team at CareerBuilder. I’m always going to events and networking. I have season tickets to the Blackhawks. I play on a couple hockey teams, on the wings, at Johnny’s Ice House. The company sponsors our team in the C league. Hockey is my life.