Most Interesting People 2014: Timothy Riffle

Timothy Riffle


Why he's interesting: Urban farming is making a comeback, and Riffle's company, Hive and Coop, is at the center of it all. He injects his lifetime passion for sculpting and design into creating custom beehives and chicken coops in hopes of encouraging people to produce and grow their own food.

History Lesson: Riffle usually produces about 20 chicken coops a month, including custom designs. "There's a paradigm shift where, all of a sudden, design and agriculture are coming together. One hundred years ago in Cleveland, 90 percent of people had chickens. We think it's kind of new, but I'm actually reviving something that has come full circle. People again have discovered the value in locally produced foods."

Stuck on Cleveland: Riffle was born and raised in Cleveland Heights and has never found a reason to leave. He didn't even have to leave the street he grew up on to find love, marrying the girl next door. "I'm 100 percent rooted, like a tree."

Sight Seeing: Pride for his hometown even comes through in his designs — some are modeled after local landmarks such as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. One, called the Cleveland Public Hive, is a bee haven designed to look like the Cleveland Public Auditorium. "It's the city that has cultivated me and made me who I am."

Back to the start: Riffle's roots also extend across the globe to Lithuania, where his family has a rich history of both beekeeping and craftsmanship. "When I go back to Lithuania, I tie into all those things, and I explore it more. The Lithuanian culture is one of the oldest beekeeping cultures in the world."

A Man of Faith: One of Riffle's lesser-known qualities is his devout Catholicism. "I can't stand people that preach. St. Francis always said to preach with your actions not with your mouth, so I follow that." Though he decided not to enter the priesthood after graduating from Borromeo Seminary, his faith is present in his work. "With a degree in philosophy and a passion for craftsmanship and woodworking, it's another way for me to see people connecting with the earth. It's a very spiritual thing to keep and raise animals and produce your own food."

From Hives To Homes: Though Riffle sells plenty of his chicken coops, which can range from $350 to $8,000, he and his wife also sell human shelters as Howard Hanna real estate agents. "We love old houses and historic buildings. We were always restoring and preserving old houses, and then we got to the point where we started showing friends of ours houses in [Cleveland] Heights. Finally an agent said to us, 'Why don't you guys just get your licenses, since you've moved so many people into the city already?' "

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