BOISE – Barton Kline was a mortician for more than a decade. After that, he performed autopsies for the coroner’s office as a forensic technician. One day, he had a change of heart.
“Twenty years of working with the dead didn’t work anymore. I’d seen enough,” Kline said. “So I jumped ship.”
His jump came with lots of uncertainty about what he would do next.
Kline lives with his family in Boise’s East End, where he grew up. He was sitting at Roosevelt Market, one of the town’s last remaining neighborhood markets, when he got the idea of becoming a bike courier.
“I thought I could deliver Roosevelt egg salad sandwiches to the world,” Kline said. “It blossomed from there.”
He founded his one-man operation, Blue Rabbit Bicycle Delivery. He named his business after a family-favorite book, and a tattoo he sports on his forearm.
Kline advertised his services through social media. He made his first run Dec. 2. His delivery area focuses on downtown Boise, the East End and the Boise State University campus. He also travels a standing, daily route for Andrade Legal, carrying the firm’s mail from the downtown post office to its offices on the Boise Bench.
Other than that, he delivers a lot of lunches, though his website notes his willingness to deliver just about anything: paper clips, candy bars, whiskey, love letters.
He prefers that clients not request deliveries from chain restaurants, “unless they really, really want it.” Case in point: He once delivered a Carl’s Jr. cheeseburger to a worker at 10 a.m.
He has delivered beer to people, though he notes he is hesitant to haul a “suitcase of Keystone Light from Jacksons.”
On the subject of beer delivery, he is wry: “I suppose I would, but you are going to get a bunch of crap from me and my fee is going to mysteriously go up quite a bit.”
Kline is all about supporting local, independent businesses, places like the Roosevelt, Zen Bento or Archie’s Place food truck. He makes regular runs from the latter whenever it’s parked downtown.
In his way, he’s helping others be productive, including Jenn Kniss, a software developer at Cradlepoint on Eighth Street and a regular Kline customer.
“My job requires hours of focus. The biggest enemy of focus is being hungry. Or running out of my favorite pens, or half-and-half for my coffee,” Kniss said.
“Because of Barton, I don’t have to leave my desk, leave my flow to get those things.”
The cost of the service is similar to going out to eat downtown, she said.
Kline’s challenge lies in drumming up enough customers to sustain Blue Rabbit.
And cold is an issue. Kline’s website features a picture of him, in bike helmet, flecks of ice in his beard.
He hasn’t been flush with cash, so he has gotten inventive to stay warm. He fashioned a pair of neoprene riding booties out of an old pair of fishing waders. Kline also has studded tires on his crossbike, a hybrid between a mountain and road bike.
“The bike has always meant freedom,” Kline said. “I believe in it for myself and for the world.”
His work is simple and honest: “Bottom line, we’ve transferred goods. You’ve gotten something you need and that makes me happy,” he said.