Local Live: Paper Trail Bike Cafe

It’s a coffee spot, it’s a bike shop! In the historic heart of the Wissahickon… 

Introducing the new Paper Trail Bike Cafe. Now serving High Point products and custom bike frames — plus providing any repair a passing cyclist might require. In Historic Rittenhouse Town’s adorable barn with shady outdoor seating and a take-out window for safe, no-contact ordering & payment.

In this video: Owner/operator Paul Daniels shows off his new business and shares his goals for serving the community — especially all the foot traffic enjoying the many great paths and hiking trails that intersect with this scenic location.

The Paper Trail Bike Cafe is open 8am to 2pm Thursday thru Sunday in “The Barn” at Historic Rittenhouse Town, the site of America’s first paper mill.

Serving “Touch-Free Takeaway” espresso-based drinks and pastries from High Point Roaster & Bakery. Bike service, repairs and custom builds (by appt).  Email Paul for more information! paper-trail-bike-cafe.business.site

Camera work & added commentary by Amy Ricci (exec director HRT). Amy gives some historical context about this bucolic corner of the 30-acre Rittenhouse complex, deemed a National Historic Landmark District in 1992. Find no less than six original colonial structures here along the north bank of the Monoshone Creek, in a scenic corner of the Wissahickon (off Lincoln Drive by Wissahickon Ave). Rittenhousetown.org (scroll down for Amy’s excellent video tour below!)  

<video transcription>

Amy Ricci 00:06
So again, like real fast, just to give some to give some site history. This is the barn we refer to it as the barn. It’s 1930 I think is what the date stone says.

But it’s a PWA reproduction of what they think a barn might have looked like at the time. And when Parks and Rec was operating the site when this barn would have gone up in the 30s.

There’s a lot of different stories about what was up here — horses I think at one point, and then this was the car shop, the machine shop for all the Fairmount Park vehicles. You can see we’ve taken down a lot of the chain link fences. It used to have like big fence all around.

And then since the 80s when Rittenhouse town took over the site, we’ve used it for our papermaking workshops. And I think occasionally we’ve even had an artist in residence here as well. But so I’m gonna really quickly open the door to the to our workshop space. We’ve had to cancel all of our workshops. But it’s nice because this is industrial space that allows us to kind of use the building a little harder than we could use an antique building. You know, papermaking is our legacy.

And as much as we we will branch out from that. And given the early industrial site, the early industrial history of the site, we could really kind of tie in a lot of different activities — we could do some sort of like upholstery and all sorts of stuff that that it’d be relevant to our mission but we really focus on paper making. But so this is our studio, and this is where we do our paper making workshops.

And then when I met Paul for the first time, and he was interested in space, we actually were using this little portion of the barn where he is now for storage but it felt like this would be perfect. It’s got its own window, its own doors. We cleared out the storage and Paul moved in. So it really just worked out. And so the barn is great because we can do programs up here.

There’s facilities, there’s lots of open space, there’s picnic tables. Now more than ever we’re seeing a lot of foot traffic. The last time I was here over an evening, there were two friends just sitting out here sharing a bottle of wine.

The Local 02:28
Let’s move in and meet Paul Daniels, the owner of the Paper Trail Bike Cafe. Paul, how are you today?

Paul Daniels 02:38
Yeah, hanging in there. Thanks for having us, for having me.

Amy Ricci 02:42
Both of us because I’m going to get a coffee.

The Local 02:44
So this is something that we just heard about recently, and I love the concept of the coffee, the treats and the bike repair/ bike creation. Do I understand that you create bikes as well or is it just bike repair?

Paul Daniels 02:57
Right. I do custom builds and bike repair as well as scheduled service, So basically, I’ll go right into it. RittenhouseTown was looking for something to get open. Amy is a new executive director from what I hear was looking for a way to stop people that were traveling through Historic Rittenhousetown.

So I got a message from Amy that basically said, how can we get the cycling community to slow down at Historic RittenhouseTown? I said, it’s nutrition and it’s service. So if we have a flat we need to get home but if we have a nutrition flat, we need something to eat before we can get. And here we are six months later. A lot of work behind it, but these are the results.

So I use High Points baked goods and also their beans. High Point cafe right here in Germantown. It’s a name that people recognize and everyone that comes through has been pretty happy with both the espresso and the baked goods.

We actually opened about five days before the city shut down. Paper Trail is a bike shop. And it’s also a non-specialty food location. So for both of those things, it could have stayed open, but at the time, it just didn’t feel right to be open. So we shut down for about six weeks and then came back on a limited schedule.

And instead of being open where people would come into the storefront, I opened our painted shut window. This isn’t where I expect to serve my clients in the future, but it’s a perfect opportunity for touch-free takeaway.

Amy Ricci 04:52
Can I take them inside?

Paul Daniels 04:55
Absolutely. So the customers come up to the front window and I’m on the opposite side to take their order.

Amy Ricci 05:06
I would like an iced coffee, please

Paul Daniels 05:09
Meet them here, always mask up. And when I’m serving food and serving coffee, I do have the mask on at all times. That’s sort of my policy. And everyone outside generally is the same way. So I take their order, and then go back into the back half of the shop, pull their drinks off the espresso machine or out of the refrigerator, and then pull their baked goods out of the baked case and set it on the sill so that they can take their order away and there’s touch-free payments in the corner of the sill (it’s a Square system).

The Local 05:44
It seems very thoughtfully set up. You took some time to really work through the procedure.

Paul Daniels 05:49
Yeah, I wondered what can I do to to protect the community but also to protect myself and my family and how can I operate in such a way that it feels responsible and safe.

The Local 06:03
That’s great. And you said you had a history in biking. What’s your background in biking?

Paul Daniels 06:09
Well, it started a long time ago. So I grew up racing bicycles. And that progressed into racing motorcycles. And then I just had a 10 year sabbatical where I rowed for the University of Wisconsin first and then for the United States for about eight years. After I got done rowing for the United States, I got right back onto the bike and started racing, road bikes, and did that for a good decade as well. And at the end of a career in finance, I was looking to get into the cycling industry, getting into the industry that I was passionate about — that was really important. And I co founded the Princeton CarbonWorks Wheel Company.

The Local 06:57
That’s a great story and you said you can make custom bikes. So is that where that organization comes back into play again?

Paul Daniels 07:04
Yeah, absolutely. I ended up having a lot of fun in running Princeton CarbonWorks with the collaborations that we were able to do to create not only amazing products, but also really cool devices for people to identify with, and to feel that they actually show who they are as a person. So this bike in particular was the very first collaboration piece that I did while running Princeton CarbonWorks. Max Pratt, the owner of Pratt Frameworks, gave it to me when I opened the shop.

The Local 07:36
That’s great. Do you make bikes other than road bikes? Do you do off road stuff?

Paul Daniels 07:42
Yep. So I actually do anything. I’ll go from fixed gear bikes, which this is, right the way through mountain bikes, electric bikes, anything that we’re able to source and build with some individuality or some character for clients in particular. Road bikes, gravel bikes and mountain bikes are sort of the sweet spot for me.

But ultimately, I’m happy to go after any project and take that client and make sure that their bike is exactly what they want. Building dream bikes one at a time. And I actually only have one stand. So it’s not as though I can pay attention to anyone else while I have their bike in my stand. It’s completely one person at a time.

Amy Ricci 08:26
Well, let’s go in and see what Paul was able to do with a 10 x 10 space. Just do like a quick 360. So that’s the workbench.

The Local 08:43
Yeah, personal attention is right.

Paul Daniels 08:46
Yeah, the idea was that people were supposed to come in and sit at the breakfast bar and look out onto Historic RittenhouseTown through my front window. This has become where I do service but the hope is that eventually you will have three clients or three coffee shop goers sitting and talking about bikes, talking about the build, talking about the morning, spending some time in Historic RittenhouseTown.

The Local 09:14
And are you also you’re a one-man operation there? Do you have any help?

Paul Daniels 09:19
No, it’s just me. And so if we’re open, it’s me here.

The Local 09:23
And how did you get the connection with High Point?

Paul Daniels 09:26
My wife grew up here and she’s a big fan of theirs. I visited their roaster and it just seemed like a great operation to attach to from the onset. And to have some recognition as a local provider right away. It was really important to me, again, on the bike side as well. I’m trying to work with people in Philadelphia, in Pennsylvania, in terms of product and merchandise. I love this idea of trying to highlight and provide another outlet for people to get good local goods.

Amy Ricci 10:01
That’s awesome. Just an aside. Meg’s mom was a long-term Board President of RittenhouseTown as well.

The Local 10:07
Oh, one other question. Do you have any favorite types of beans or goods from High Point?

Paul Daniels 10:15
I’ll say two things. We only run one bean from High Point. Well, one blend from High Point, and it’s Nitro. So everything comes off of one espresso machine. And so for our drinks and our service, it’s really important to have a great espresso shot. And the Nitro is phenomenal. People love it, I would never change it. And the second thing I’ll say is that oat bar from High Point, it sells out every time. And it varies in terms of the fruit that’s included on the daily, but every day it sells out.

The Local 10:48
I guess with with the nitro they’re riding faster after they leave your shop.

Paul Daniels 10:53
Absolutely. And if they’re not running faster, they’re coming back.

Amy Ricci 10:58
We actually talked about having to put up a ‘please walk your bike, don’t exceed 10 miles an hour’ sign.

The Local 11:07
Well, thank you for your time. I see you also have merchandise that’s on sale there, correct?

Paul Daniels 11:11
Yeah that’s an important part of it. We don’t sell bottled water, we’re in a park. So I made the decision to not sell bottled water but I do sell water and I do sell bottles. And also I have a ‘get you home’ service.

So anything that a cyclist could run into on the trails, if they needed anything to get home, whether that’s with flats or tube or sealants, things like that. I can get somebody home and that’s the most important thing so that they can then schedule an appointment to get back for service.

The Local 11:47
So, I know Amy’s dying to get an iced coffee there.

Amy Ricci 11:51
I am.

The Local 11:52
I appreciate your taking time and speaking with us. Anything else that you wanted to mention.?

Paul Daniels 11:58
Yeah, we’re on a revised and limited schedule Thursday through Sunday 8AM to 2PM, just to keep it easy so that people can rely on it. And we’ll expand it to earlier in the week as we go. As the bike business picks up right now, the cafe business is absolutely specific towards the weekends just when people are able to get out and choosing to come out to the park. I think it’s been a really fun project so far. It’s great having regulars already which is really nice. And everyone that comes back, they come back and ask for similar things or the same thing which means that we’re doing something right.

The Local 12:44
Well, thanks a lot, Paul Daniels for making time for us. Love this idea. And we’re looking forward to biking out there ourselves on our tandem and maybe one day we’ll have to come to you and ask for a special electric tandem, but at this point you will see us soon

Paul Daniels 13:00
Yeah, show up on a double-seater bike, I’ll send you home with a double espresso.

The Local 13:05
Excellent. Thanks a lot Paul. You take care.

Amy Ricci 13:07
One more thing. Paul kind of touched on it too, is just revitalizing some of these spaces that were dormant before is, is what’s important to us at RittenhouseTown. There’s just so much space that could be utilized for stuff like this as an amenity to the park.

The Local 13:23
Okay. Yeah, I love that you’re reusing it. You’re you’re finding ways to creatively reuse it because again, I haven’t heard of a bike repair coffee shop, at least in this area. So I think that’s a wonderful draw.

Amy Ricci 13:35
Right? And again, this this space was being used for storage. There’s no reason for that.

The Local 13:40
Yeah, no brainer.

Amy Ricci 13:44
We’re thrilled to have Paul. So this is great.

The Local 13:46
Yes, and thanks for showing us around and playing the camera person for us.

Amy Ricci 13:50
Not a problem. Thanks

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