Interview with Jim Chelossi, Inventor of the Coffee Sleeve

Shortly after my usual lazy movie review of Made of Honor, I received an e-mail from Jim Chelossi, THE inventor of the coffee sleeve millions of people use every day.

I was really excited and started asking all sort of questions. Then it occurred to me that alot people here will be really interested to find out more about the coffee sleeve and how it actually came about. So, I set up an interview and Jim readily agreed. What a great guy! 😀

You can read the interview after the jump!

  1. Can we have some background information about yourself?
  2. Some background on myself…hmm..I guess it all started in a 250 square foot building, my first coffee shop in Belmont, California. I named it the Coffee Club. I didn’t know much about running a coffee shop then and opened my first one without a business license. Also, within a month of opening this shop, I had a visit from the health department asking me for my health permit. Luckily, I was able to get the license and permit without a problem.

    The first few months of opening were very slow and I use to go into the bank parking lot nearby and give out free samples of my coffee I purchased from McLaughlin Coffee in Emeryville. I wouldn’t even lock the door behind me because I knew no one was going to come in. Let’s not forget this was in 1988 before coffee shops became the phenomenon they are today. Six months later I had customers lined all the way from the front of the shop to the bank parking lot.

    About 7 months into my business, a gentleman that had been watching from across the street approached me and said if I could make a success out of that location, he would like to go into business with me. He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. The gentleman was leaving town and wrote me a check for $25,000 and told me to locate a second shop. We ended the deal on a handshake.

    When he came back a month later I had another shop location selected on Laurel Street in San Carlos, California. We ended up with a total of five shops throughout our partnership.

  3. How did you come about inventing the coffee sleeve that millions of people use daily?
  4. In 1991 more and more people started to ask for a second cup on their coffee due to how hot the cup was on their hands. The cups were costing eight cents a cup then and I had to think of a way to cut this expense. In the San Carlos store I grabbed a napkin and created the idea of the sleeve. I drew a sketch of my idea and some rough costs on the napkin. The final cost of the sleeve was three cents and that was a savings of five cents for every sleeve I used instead of a second cup. Then I decided to sell advertisements on the sleeve and that paid for all of the sleeves I used in the shops. Then I began selling sleeves to other distributors which would in turn sell them to other coffee shops. That was the birth of the sleeve.

  5. Were you involved in the movie, Made of Honor? Were you compensated in any way for your ‘role’ in the movie?
  6. As far as the movie Made of Honor, I had no idea this was a parity of my invention. I did contact the movie production company and they informed me this was a fictional character and they called the sleeve ‘the collar’ for a reason. Imagine that. I was just excited to see that someone else thought it was a good enough invention to make it a focus of a movie. I was just on google one day and decided to put my name in and do a search. I often will do this to see if I have any new publicity for my latest invention, the Cleaning Caddy, a portable golf ball washer. ( That is when I found many articles mentioning my name in reference to the original inventor of the sleeve from the movie.

  7. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the worst and 5 being the best, what score would you give the movie?
  8. I did go see the movie and was pleasantly surprised. I would give it a 3.5 out of 5 but I would have to admit when they mentioned ‘the collar’ and the royalties, it did bring me back to 1991 so I may be a little prejudice in my score of the movie.

  9. Are you paid $0.10 for each coffee sleeve used?
  10. I had to go back and research my negotiations with the company that produced the product and I believe it was $25,000 idea money and 3% royalties based on sales and after 100 million it would move to 4% royalties. Also, I would receive another $25,000 after 25 million sold.

  11. Something alot guys here will be interested in finding out, do you really drive a Maserati around meeting hot girls?
  12. No Maserati but I did have a 1961 Corvette for awhile. The sleeve was such a new idea at the time that just in the last five years I realize how big it had become. As far as meeting hot girls, owning coffee shops’ was good enough.

  13. What are you doing now presently?
  14. I have a beautiful wife, Tammy, from Missouri and a combined family of six children. I also take care of my father, Jim Chelossi, Sr., that has Alzheimer’s. We live on a wonderful property in Scotts Valley, California that I purchased from the proceeds of the coffee shops and the sleeve.

    I recently ran into a friend that helped me through a rough time before the coffee shops started, Emeric Delzig a professional body builder from Romainia, who resides in Belmont, California currently. I was living in the back of an auto body shop with no shower or kitchen at the time. I met Emeric at the gym he managed when I applied for a job in hopes of getting employment and free showers. When Emeric heard of my situation, him and his wife invited me to stay in the bottom section of their house rent free until I could get on my feet. I never forgot that.

    Since our recent reunion he introduced me to a product that could help my father. Emeric and I decided to have my father take this suppliment we call NGF, Natural Growth Formula, and the results have been nothing short of miraculus. I also started taking NGF myself and I have noticed an improvement in my memory and my focus. I have since dedicated my time and energy to this new product to help as many others as I can. Anyone that wants further information about this suppliment can contact me [email protected].

  15. Lastly, do you have any advice for all aspiring inventors?

I have become known in my town and when new inventors approach me I am always happy to sit down for an initial consultation. After all I had some help along the way and love discussing and improving other peoples ideas. That is why I decided to start a consulting business for up in coming inventors ([email protected] for more information). It’s difficult to navigate if you have never been through the process. Probably the most important advise I tell others that I consult is to protect their idea by making sure a Non Disclosure Form is signed before any discussion of your invention. I lost one idea before I knew how important a Non Disclosure was. I saw my product on an infomercial after discussing it with several associates and there was nothing I could do about it. Make sure you protect your idea.

Thank you for appreciating a simple idea I had in 1991 to cut costs.

Jim Chelossi


And that’s it guys! I hope you all enjoyed the interview as much as I did!

You can check out the original napkin that is dated 1991 with the drawing of the very first coffee sleeve on it below!