Beer as Cash


It’s summer in the city, when product-promotion teams unveil their most ballsy stunts, a time for colossal Snapple popsicles to melt away in Union Square, for Carmen Electra to jump in a hot tub with random strangers just to hawk more Big Red gum. In this top-that bonanza, the challenge is to move beyond the ho-hum issuing of coupons and sponsoring of P.S. 1 Summer Sessions to some truly cracked attention-getters.

Of course, it helps when the company that’s selling the product is screwy to begin with.

On a corner of Nolita, catty-corner from Spring Street Lounge and across the  street from Pomodoro’s Pizza, sits a Crumpler store we must have passed a hundred times without bothering to look inside. If we had, we would have found floor-to-ceiling walls crammed with no-frills bags in all shapes, colors, and sizes—from iPod pouches to sacks big enough to smuggle a kid in. The various styles are not intuitively labeled  “small backpack,” or “large messenger bag,” but bear curious names like “The Breakfast Buffet,” “The Salary Sacrifice,” “The Soupansalad,” and even “The Moderate Embarrassment,” “The Considerable Embarrassment,” and “The Dreadful Embarrassment.” Funny names for what appear to be fairly basic—albeit impressively indestructible—bags.

But this company is far more bizarre than the products it produces. Founders Dave Roper and Will Miller, former owners of a bike-messenger business in Australia, named their company after one of their part-time employees and now third owner, Stuart Crumpler. They’ve set up deals with orchards to put Crumpler logo stickers on produce destined for grocery stores. The Crumpler website features a Flash animation of the two owners talking about the company’s history—except that the heads are actually the owners’ faces turned upside down, with eyes drawn in and the owners’ beards subbing in for hair. A previous advertisement for Crumpler shows a man getting into a massive Crumpler bag, then being dragged through alleyways by a motorcycle; he emerges from the bag unscathed. Now, the owners are shooting another video spot with a man they call “Pineapple Ju-Ju,” a pineapple-loving character who was discovered outside a Crumpler store when his bag of pineapples broke.

In an interview, Pineapple Ju-Ju claims to be in town to check out North America’s pineapple supply, to shoot the new ad spot, and to star at Crumpler’s first Beer for Bags exchange in New York. From June 3-11, the two New York Crumpler stores will be accepting beer for their merchandise.

Apparently, the owners are huge beer lovers and welcome a fair swap. (Example: A fair swap would not be the $95 “Complete Seed” messenger bag for the five-month-old can of Bud you have lying around your fridge.) A paper wheel available at NY stores and online indicates the sanctioned tradeoffs, which include: one case of Leffe and one bottle of Chimay for the Complete Seed bag; one case of Coopers and two Fosters cans for the Barney Rustle bag; one case of Pacifico and a bag of limes for one bean bag chair.

The event has been enormously popular in Crumpler’s home country of Australia. “The shop windows usually just end up full up beer,” says Bianca Dillon, marketing director for Crumpler USA. “And we usually have enough beer to drink for the rest of the year.” They’ll plow most of it back into a beer bash on June 11, for participants in the barter. “In Australia, barter is very much part of the society,” explains Lindsay Cousley, president of Crumpler USA. “You mow someone’s lawn, you give them a six pack. You help them move, you get some beers.”

The alcohol-for-merch trade has landed Crumpler in trouble with the Australian authorities—the beer was confiscated; Dillon suspects officers drank it all—but the dustup has not dissuaded the owners any. “If we make things,” one beard-chin reasons on the Crumpler website, “we should be able to swap it for whatever we want.”

And they, and Pineapple Ju-Ju, desire beer.

The Crumpler Beer for Bags exchange will occur from June 3-11, at the  Crumpler stores at 49 8th Ave and at 45 Spring St.