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Owner of group of Idaho coffee shops dies at age 55

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Future in Focus: Sun Valley

Todd Rippo, owner of the local Java chain of coffeehouses, died earlier this month.

Java, which fields locations in Ketchum, Hailey, Twin Falls, Downtown Boise, and Boise’s Hyde Park, will continue to operate. An obituary did not list a cause of death.

Rippo grew up in Southern California and started on the path to getting a law degree. He spent time studying in coffee shops in San Diego, when he decided to take a detour from class. He bought a motorcycle and hit the road to “figure out his life,” according to his obituary. The road led to Ketchum – where Java first put down roots in 1991.

Coffee and atmosphere

With offerings like the Bowl of Soul and Keith Richards, the stores mix a high-end coffee product with eclectic decor and a straightforward food menu. Starting with the first store in Ketchum, Java started to branch out, with five Idaho locations.

Rippo called the vibe of the shops ‘rock and roll’ during a brief expansion to the east coast. That first location in Sun Valley opened in 1991, the first of a series of experiments. Outlets in Coeur d’Alene, Ontario, and Westport, Connecticut came and went over the years. Rippo told the Twin Falls Times-News that his favorite part was getting a new location up and running.

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“That’s the whole impetus of doing this. I like to create a process, like a birth,” he said in 2013. “My stores aren’t adolescents anymore. I love the growth process. I’m going to jump and grab for it.

Along the way, Rippo and his band Deluxe 76 played venues across Idaho – including the old Bouquet in Boise, and opening for “his friend” Bruce Willis at The Mint in Hailey.

“Todd was a deep thinker, inquisitive, complex, and clever,” his obituary said. “He was superstitious, stubborn, spiritual, political and soulful. He was remarkably intelligent, funny, and fiercely loyal to those he loved. When Todd loved you, you felt chosen. He was magic. There wasn’t a disingenuous bone in his body. He was a profoundly sensitive old soul.He had a singular, enviable sense of style and impeccable taste.”

In 2001, Rippo summed up his life for the Idaho Mountain Express.

“I have a wonderful life. I’m living the American dream,” Rippo said.

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Don Day
Don is the founder and editor of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow.

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