When the founder of Detroit's new delivery service appeared on my front porch bearing the can of pop I had ordered online just 14 minutes earlier, I had to invite him inside to ask a few questions.
25-year-old Jimmy McBroom isn't just quick on a bike. On Monday, he launched Konbini, a service that allows those in the Midtown and Downtown neighborhoods to order groceries and home goods online -- from ketchup and cleaning products to clementines or condoms.
The Utica native and Cranbrook grad went to Columbia University, where he wrote his thesis about "right-sizing" Detroit. McBroom returned to Michigan after graduating in 2010, but the idea for Konbini came from a late-night delivery service he used frequently as a student in New York.
"I'm not trying to stock anything too crazy," he said. "I'm just thinking sometimes people feel lazy, don't want to leave the house, and … after a certain hour you're stuck with what you have at the liquor store or the gas station."
McBroom envisions students at nearby Wayne State University as his "bread and butter," and some of the options -- pints of ice cream, ramen, Red Bull, individual rolls of toilet paper and the plastic Solo cups used in that most traditional of drinking games, beer pong -- seem to cater to a clientele that fuels a "study hard, play hard" lifestyle with late night snacks.
Konbini is currently open from 7 a.m. to 3 a.m and has a flat $3.50 delivery fee for orders, which are placed online and paid for in-person by cash or credit. McBroom said he's hesitant about the long hours, and as they see when customers place orders they may whittle down. After all, for now it's just McBroom, his roommate, a few friends volunteering and their bikes.
"My goal is to start a sustainable business. I'm not trying to be the one who's delivering food all day," he said. "It would be pretty sweet to be a job creator."
Konbini is first open for a trial run that lasts through Wayne's semester before closing on Dec. 19 and then reopening for good in January. Though the Woodbridge-based entrepreneur said he had only delivered two orders by late Thursday morning -- including to this reporter -- he's counting on the studying for finals stretch to build a customer base.
There are several other late-night delivery food options nearby, like Jets Pizza, which recently moved from Southwest to Midtown and expanded hours until 2 a.m. weekends. Bucharest Grill delivers delish shawarmas to 11 p.m. and Jimmy Johns delivers in a hurry until just after midnight on weekends. For now, Konbini appears to have the longest hours, and the most variety. The name, after all, comes from the Japanese word for convenience store.
"I guess in Japan, they're really full service. You can buy train tickets, concert tickets, fresh food. That's the model I'm aspiring to, but on the internet," McBroom said.
Konbini currently has little fresh food, and McBroom hopes to expand after business picks up. He imagines he could team up with some of the many individuals in Detroit who are starting pop-up restaurants and food businesses to help expand their reach and his selection.
"Part of my goal too is to hook up with people who are doing their own thing and help them find another way to get it to customers," he said.
"I know Detroit needs employment, and I see the food sector as kind of a burgeoning area of entrepreneurship and innovation."