Tim Fifer serves up Square meals
RIFLE – Running a restaurant might seem quite different from being a school counselor. But not for Tim Fifer.”Both are about creating a safe and welcoming environment,” he said. The 40-year-old self-described “Rifle-ite” worked as a school counselor and social worker for the Roaring Fork Re-1 and Garfield Re-2 school districts for nearly a dozen years before becoming general manager and part owner of the Brickyard Square Restaurant and Bar in downtown Rifle last year.Usually, Brickyard patrons only get a fleeting glimpse of Fifer’s friendly face as he darts from the front door, to behind the bar, and to the kitchen and back during the restaurant’s busy lunch and dinner hours. But on Friday morning, Fifer took a moment to sit down and talk before the restaurant opened for the day. He sat at a table in the Brickyard’s dining room and drank from a plastic gallon jug of water. Fifer grew up in the hospitality business. His father, Bill, worked as a general manager for auditoriums and arenas in Saginaw, Mich., and later, in Billings, Mont.Fifer’s childhood was filled with popping popcorn, serving soda and helping set up banquet facilities for the numerous concerts and conventions that came through his father’s venues. “We met a lot of cool, interesting people,” he said. “We met Lawrence Welk. We had breakfast with the Osmonds. I can remember running around backstage with Jimmy Osmond.”Fifer credits his father, and his late mother, Nancy, for inspiring him no matter what career choice he made. “My dad taught me to have a strong work ethic,” Fifer said. “And both of my parents taught me about values, honesty and humility.”Fifer attended Rocky Mountain College in Billings on a football scholarship and earned his undergraduate degree in business management and economics. “I wanted to be an educator, but then I found out how much educators made, especially in Montana,” he said. After college, Fifer went to Fort Collins to work on a master’s degree in social work at Colorado State University. In 1991, he came to Glenwood Springs to do research at Colorado West Mental Health.”It felt so familiar,” he said of the region. “I felt like I’d been here before.” After graduate school, Fifer found “great jobs” counseling at area elementary schools. And those jobs, in turn, have given Fifer a lot of fulfilling memories. “I’ve impacted thousands of kids’ lives. I’m happy and satisfied,” he said. Fifer said he decided to start his new restaurant career last year because of several pivotal changes – including strict state and federal mandates being imposed on public education.”It’s a frustrating time to be in public education,” said Fifer. “It seems that there’s more concern with the science of education than the art of education.”Still, he said a lot of “amazing” teachers are finding ways to artfully educate. He cited Heather Knighton, the fourth-grade teacher of Fifer’s 10-year-old daughter, Ali, at Kathryn Senor Elementary School in New Castle, and Kathryn Senor principal Bill Zambelli. Fifer also said his girlfriend, Christi Patterson, is an “incredible” special-needs teacher at Gypsum Middle School, and calls Rifle Middle School principal Mark MacHale and Garfield Re-2 assistant superintendent Ava Lanes his mentors.”They create sparks, even within the guidelines,” said Fifer. It was a conversation in the fall of 2003 with restaurateur Christian Harra of The Miner’s Claim in Silt, that launched Fifer into his new career. One evening at the restaurant, Fifer mentioned to Harra that he’d like to have his own restaurant someday. “Christian said he might have an opportunity coming up in Rifle,” Fifer said. “And he asked me if I would consider forming a partnership.”A couple of months later, Fifer was visiting Esma Lewis Elementary principal Howard Disney and Howard’s wife, Laura, telling them about his restaurant dream, when Fifer’s cell phone rang.”I answered it and it was Christian, telling me the restaurant was a go, and asking me if I wanted to be a part of it,” Fifer said. Brickyard Square, opened since May of 2004, is actually owned by a group called Oddfellas Inc. – Walt “Wally the Godfather” Kneupfer, Wally’s wife – Joni Kneupfer, Terry Dick, Harra and Fifer. “It’s a great group,” Fifer said. “We have great partners.”Fifer said he’s really enjoying serving as general manager of Brickyard Square. And even though he works inside a restaurant instead of a school building, he still draws from his educational background. “I use my master’s degree in social work every day here,” he said with a grin. “I use my master’s degree in social work every day here,” he said with a grin.
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Policy that dictates what for-profit activities should be officially sanctioned within Glenwood Springs parks is being reviewed by city staff and will likely come before the city council for final approval later this summer.