Interview with The Bike Plumber
Josh DeParrie Will Fix Your Pipes
The city of Portland is notorious for its dedication to bike-friendliness, and native Josh DeParrie has grown comfortably alongside it. He’s so used to biking that he decided to change the car-heavy career of plumbing to fit his style, and for about a year and a half, DeParrie has been serving Portland’s pipes with his bike.
DeParrie spent most of the past 2000 nine years doing the job normally, driving a truck for a friend’s plumbing business in the small town of Bandon. “It’s rural Oregon,” DeParrie said of the area. “You can’t get around unless you have a car, so I had to use a car to get places and I was driving a truck all the time.”
A truly modern Portland resident, DeParrie had a growing dissatisfaction with driving, which lead him to contemplate the future of his career. “Most of my life, I haven’t really needed a car,” DeParrie said. “I was missing that lifestyle, so I thought I really picked the wrong profession mbecause I had to drive a truck for most of my plumbing. I started to look into it to see if that assumption was correct, and I found that it wasn’t, that there are cargo bikes.”
The choice to carry out such a taxing profession via bike may seem like a typical Portland thing, but DeParrie hasn’t found anyone else doing the same in the city—or the continent, for that matter. “I’ve searched high and low, and the only other person I could find was in London,” he said. “I heard that there are other plumbers in Holland and Copenhagen and places like that.” Though the specifications of his job are unique, they’re more about DeParrie’s preferences than a desire to stand out, and he remains aware that life in such a bikeable city has helped him work accordingly. “Doing what I’m doing wouldn’t even be possible in a place like Houston,” DeParrie said. “We’ve got a great demographic as well. A lot of people are supportive of my business because it’s a bike-based business. Luckily, most of his patrons prefer DeParrie’s skills to the novelty of a bike plumber.
“I’ve heard people make the assumption that, ‘Oh, it’s kind of a niche,’ or, ‘Oh yeah, that way you get to get all those bikey people,” DeParrie said. “More people are interested in hiring me because I do good work. People just want quality work at a reasonable price, and that’s what I try to provide.” DeParrie’s dedication to his chosen trade transcends any accusations of pandering, as he says plumbing with a cargo bike is often a hindrance. “It makes everything about three times harder,” he said. “I make a fraction of what a normal plumber makes because I can’t get to as many jobs in a day as most plumbers. If I had a van, I could go out there and make a lot more money.”
One might get the impression that such obstacles are enough to keep a person from such a job. However, DeParrie’s passion quickly makes it clear that he wouldn’t do the job if he didn’t love it. “It’s rewarding in so many ways,” he said. “I appreciate life more. I’m sure many people are familiar with the difference in lifestyle of using a car constantly to suddenly using a bicycle. There’s a sense of liberation. I probably experience that on a large scale.”
An added perk of his job description is its environmental friendliness. In a city determined to turn around its history of pollution, DeParrie says he’s trying to do his part for the local environment.“I don’t advocate people installing what I consider to be wasteful, like hot tubs and things like that,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of things that people could do without. Like, if somebody was to tell me that they wanted to create a human car wash in their shower with tons of body sprays, I don’t want anything to do with that. There’s plenty of plumbers out there who will… but I don’t consider it to be a good thing for anyone to squander resources on yourself like that.”
DeParrie’s service covers the span of Portland, not including the mountainous West Hills. He says he’ll go “pretty far out,” occasionally using cars when necessary. “If one job is a lot further than others, I will use a car,” he admitted. “I try to account for that, but if somebody lives out further, ironically, they’ll end up paying more, because I have to use a vehicle.”
Riding his bike is an easy way for DeParrie to show gratitude for the place that made his profession possible. “I’m really actually just thankful that I happened to grow up in a city that has an infrastructure like Portland,” he said.
Portland’s bike culture has done a lot to shape DeParrie into the person he is today, and with his exceptional determination, he’s sure to spend his career helping the city one pedal at a time.
Find out more about Josh DeParrie’s services at plumbingbybike.com.