No Strangers to Tough Competition, Maritime Bicycle Couriers Pedal On

Photos by Maritime courier Daniel Nolasco

With in-car delivery services like Postmates and Uber Eats now dominating the food delivery landscape in Long Beach, how has one small bicycle-based delivery service kept the wheels turning for the past four years? And what’s in store for its future?

When Maritime Bicycle Courier first launched in 2014, co-owners Langdon Taguiped and Bud Abille, both coming off an extensive history with competitive cycling, introduced what seemed like a boon to Long Beach’s still-aspirational tagline as the most bicycle-friendly city in the country: an efficient and environmentally-conscious method of delivering food, by bicycle.

Fourth Street quickly became known as the “Maritime highway” as riders, sporting their quintessential front racks, silver delivery bags, bulging backpacks—and a little sweat on the brow—are often seen pedaling to and from restaurants such as MVPs, Seoulmate and Honduras Kitchen, three of the business’s earliest clients, to customers’ homes.

Now business has slowed some, and while you can still spot couriers during their daily and nightly runs in-zone, over the past year workers have been hard-pressed to get as much work during a shift as when Maritime was at its busiest—couriers are given a portion of the delivery fee and whatever they’re tipped, so the more runs, the better.

“Postmates, Uber Eats, DoorDash and Grubhub Car Delivery, who are all corporately structured as far as I know, have affected us dramatically,” said Taguiped. “From the year prior, we are down overall by 10,000 delivery runs. So, I can tell you frankly how a corporation effects a small local business and its synergy.”

All is not lost, however, as Taguiped said they’re looking to diversify from solely delivering food to other items. A recent partnership with 4th Street Postal has given Maritime the task of delivering the postal shop’s packages after they’re closed, while another recent partnership with Michael’s Messenger Service, which has a contract with CVS pharmacy, will have them delivering medications.

Co-owner Taguiped sporting some Maritime Bicycle Courier merch.

“We are constantly evolving and learning,” Taguiped said. “If we don’t evolve we become extinct.”

While restaurants partnered with Maritime are by no means required to exclusively use their services, businesses intent on supporting it, like Pizzanista!, have chosen to forgo the plethora of app-based, car-centric delivery services.

Owner Salman Agah said their Long Beach location only uses Maritime, and has been since they opened in November 2016. Initially skeptical of outsourcing any portion of their operations, knowing a negative experience would ultimately be faulted to the pizzeria, Agah said for more reasons than one he’s happy he went with the couriers.

“In the hospitality business it’s hard to find companies that meet or exceed our own standards, but Maritime shares many of the same beliefs we hold and is very conscientious about exceeding customer’s needs, so we gave them our business,” Agah said. “We appreciate the fact that using bicycles minimizes our carbon footprint, plus in Long Beach it’s very difficult to find parking, so a delivery person on a bike has an advantage when it comes to getting the delivery to its destination in a timely manner.”

“If a customer in Long Beach orders from Pizzanista!, which is locally owned, Salman pays us to deliver it,” Taguiped said. “So when we go back and eat at Pizzanista! that money goes back to feeding his family. It is that communal synergy that helps sustain us all and a local economy, versus a corporation where the money leaves the community and is paid out to a shareholder who could care less about the welfare of the community.”

Taguiped said he and Abille have no intention of “growing large, going public and following that business trend,” referring to aforementioned companies like Uber Eats. Getting the word out is more about sustaining the lifestyle and close-knit local community that has grown and developed thanks to Maritime over the past four years.

For some of Maritime’s riders, the majority of which live in its delivery zone, it’s their first job or first time entering the workforce out of college, many from Cal State Long Beach. Taguiped says he explains to every new employee the value of accountability and servicing the community. He’s also a mentor of sorts, and encourages riders to pursue their passions, on and off the bike.

“Our biggest compliment is our riders are always happy and nice,” he said. “When you care about and enjoy what you’re doing, a smile is just a byproduct. If I support our riders’ passion and quality of life, they will support us and Maritime, it’s simple. Staying connected to the community is a big value to us. We love riding our bicycles and serving local Long Beach.”

Regarding the future of Maritime, it may be up to the Long Beach community, including the business owners whose products they transport, not just the customers, to know, appreciate and consciously support this somewhat novel method of transporting goods within a small radius, despite knowing companies like Postmates exist.

“We live in a free market, we just want to reinforce that there is a local option,” Taguiped said.

For more information about Maritime Bicycle Courier, visit the website here.

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Asia Morris has been with the Long Beach Post for five years, specializing in coverage of the arts. Her parents gave her the name because they wanted her to be a world traveler and they got their wish. She has obliged by pursuing art, journalism and a second career as a competitive cyclist.