Paper St Coffee Owner Gabe Maldonado Talks About His Journey from Gym Owner to Creating a CrossFit Coffee Powerhouse
You don’t have to be a coffee lover to understand or appreciate the aroma of a roastery. There is a warm, slightly burnt smell in the air, machines are buzzing, and the room is full of potato sacks of beans from all over the globe. It’s inviting and warm and it’s where Gabe Maldonado has made it his homebase for Paper St Coffee—a coffee brand taking the CrossFit world by storm.
The Morning Chalk Up visited the roastery where the coffee is prepared in Brooklyn, New York and spoke to Maldonado about how his company has become such a fixture in the CrossFit space.
Remind me: Paper St Coffee ambassadors include elite athletes, such as Arielle Loewen, Colten Mertens, and Christine Kolenbrander, just to name a few. Elite CrossFitters alike have been flaunting the small batch coffee brand all over social media, either holding a bag, a mug, or sleek cold brew cans. These athletes can’t get enough of what Paper St Coffee has to offer.
Maldonado started CrossFit in 2013 after some coercing from a friend. He was fascinated by the sport, reading CrossFit’s publication “The Journal” from start to finish, and even went on to get his Level One certification in 2015. He proceeded to own two gyms; one that didn’t go well and the other that he decided to sell in 2019, located in Bergenfield, New Jersey.
- “In 2015 to 2019 I just was giving, giving, giving to my athletes. And I said ‘hey, you know, I’m gonna take a step back and focus on me.’ November 2019 I did that and got rid of the gym. I kept all my equipment. I leased my equipment out in January 2020,” said Maldonado, who works full-time at a distribution company.
- When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the distribution company Maldonado worked for was still operating, but there was no one to drive the trucks. Maldonado volunteered to drive trucks from Chicago to New Jersey and during that time on the road he stops for coffee, “and it’s just regular crappy coffee.”
- Then a spark went off. Maldonado’s wife Michelle had an uncle who would send them “awesome coffee” from Colombia and then the idea hit.
- “Let’s just take this amazing coffee. Let’s take this vacuum because people are now stuck at home because of the pandemic. So how can I bridge that gap, like these people were all used to just going to Dunkin and Starbucks because it was so quick. How can I bridge the gap of people who are now home and they’re able to spend more time making better coffee at home.”
Maldonado started to research and went on to get an LLC for his business and locate ethical coffee beans from farmers through a broker called Royal Coffee. He then met the owners of Shared Roasting, essentially a co-op space for coffee roasters to roast and package their beans.
“I went from 2021 when we first kind of officially launched the website to 2022 where we had just a few sales. I think that year I made like 500 bucks online,” he said.
- Maldonado credits his recent success in the CrossFit space to Sevan Matossian, the host of The Sevan Podcast and former CrossFit media team member. He reached out to Matossian long before Paper St Coffee, regarding a medical situation with a family member. Long story short, Matossian replied to Maldonado at the time and felt he would pay it forward years later by sending him some of his coffee.
- “I said to him, let me send you out some coffee and let me just support the podcast because you did something for me at a time. You didn’t have to send me that information,” said Maldonado.
- “He [Matossian] said ‘hey, man, I really like your stuff. Let’s work on it.’ And ever since March of 2022 we’ve been on this astronomical rocket ship. Thanks to him.”
Most recently, Maldonado has teamed up with CrossFit Games veteran Josh Bridges and his coffee company Good Dudes. The collaboration has only increased Paper St Coffee’s popularity and gained more traction in the community. He’s hired some staff outside of his wife and other family members in hopes of giving others a career and opportunity to learn.
- “I’m going to always be the person in the trenches. I’m always going to be that person that if I say ‘hey charge’, I’m the one in front, you guys are all following me. I’m not ever going to be the one following someone,” said Maldonado.
The next big thing for Paper St Coffee is a coffee shop coming soon in New Jersey. Maldonado even has hopes of opening more across the country in other large cities.
One last thing from Maldonado: “There’s no wrong way to drink coffee. That’s why all my bags say ‘enjoy your journey’.”