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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 


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For the week of November 14 - 20, 2001


Valley institution celebrates a decade in business

Java on Fourth turns 10 years old

Express Staff Writer

He came, he saw, he bought, and it flourished.

In a nutshell that is the story of the last 10 years of Todd Rippo’s life—excluding playing and writing music with his band Deluxe 76, and meeting his wife, Lisa.

Java on Fourth in Ketchum is a decade old. Express photo by Dana DuGan

Rippo came to the valley 10 years ago, liked the place and, using his expertise garnered while running a café in Del Mar, Calif., opened Java on Fourth in Ketchum.

The day he put all his ideas in one basket was Nov. 14 1991. "I made it what I thought would be a great combo of all the places I really loved."

Today he says it’s "off the chart and a little weird," but adds that "I’m not a corporate guy."

Indeed, Rippo, who is passionate about music, prefers to be the front man for the three Java’s that he still owns—Java on Fourth, the nine years of Java on Main in Hailey, and the Twin Falls Java. At one time he also owned the Coeur d’Alene Java, and one in Ontario, Ore.

Initially, though, "It was a timing thing." Ketchum needed a cool café, and he was happy to oblige.

As a drummer, he was told not to copy one drummer but take the best from 20. He took that advice when designing Java. "You get your own style that way, and you throw your heart and soul into it.":

Java’s longevity is due to many ingredients, not the least of which is it’s casual yet hip atmosphere. Rippo added to the café’s appeal by opening Java Primo Ice Cream, which is open all summer, and a very popular hang out for kids of all ages.

Java owner Todd Rippo poses with his sidekick 9-year-old Ray. Express photo by Dana DuGan

Both of these cafes on the corner of Fourth and Washington have turned that corner, along with Board Bin into a happening spot, where the youth tend to congregate and street parties are held each year. Adding to the corner’s luster is Desperado on another corner, and The Toy Store and Bob Dog Pizza on the other.

It all makes for a prime and convenient location, much appreciated by its loyal clientele. Java also sports a commodious and sunny porch, lots of flowers in the summer, a cozy interior where music plays, and there are magazines to read and games to play. They serve hearty breakfasts and lunches, and have famously huge muffins. Not too shabby.

But a few years ago, Rippo had had enough. One day, someone mentioned they’d noticed he’d gotten new wheels on his car. Small town-itis had crept in while he was building his business.

So, while consulting on a new café in Pacific Palisades, Rippo decided to stay down in Southern California awhile.

Two years later, his business needed him and he returned to Ketchum, married a woman he’d met in California, and returned to running the cafés personally, rather than from afar. He says his main roles at the café are picking the music and menu, greeting people, being on hand to help and painting. And he continues to make music. Indeed, Rippo’s band Deluxe 76 will be opening for his friend, Bruce Willis, at The Mint this Friday night and playing with him on Saturday in Boise.

Along the way, Java has been featured in several national magazines, including Gourmet, Town & Country, and Shape. And to keep current, Java now has Internet access for laptop users. In the old days, Rippo says, people used to come in and write letters and pay bills. "You got to keep up with what’s happening."

Today, for Java’s 10th anniversary, he plans on being there all day, and thanking everyone who walks in the door. "This is a pretty special place. I’m proud of it,"

His wife, Lisa, has joined him and they operate as an integral team. One of her initiatives was to have H&H Bagels shipped in fresh from New York City every other day. "It’s a nice time to be doing business with New York. I feel good about it." Rippo said.

Lisa Rippo was a private flight attendant when they met. In fact, before meeting Rippo, she had come to Sun Valley for seven years as part of the flight crew that worked for Allen & Co.’s annual retreat, and had even been to Java.

But moving here to live was another story. She’s gone from a jet-setting kind of life style to scrubbing floors, fixing toilets and painting. "It was a huge decision to move up here," she says. But her inclusion in the business has meant a perfect score from the health department, a tighter ship in terms of employees and everything in working order.

"It’s a process to bring it back to the level we want it," says Rippo. But together they have succeeded in giving both the Hailey and Ketchum Javas a bright and cheery look and a new lease on life.

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


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.