THEY ARE THE TRUE definition of community. Having touched the lives of countless people in Sandpoint and beyond, Jim and Pam Lippi and their children are an inspiration.
The Lippis have owned and operated Ivano’s Ristorante for nearly 32 years, their daughters Jessica and Katie grew up in the restaurant industry. They also own La Rosa in downtown Sandpoint and operate Ivano’s del Lago in Hope during the summer months.
Whether it has been donating food to an organization or family in need or catering the celebrations of many, the Lippi family plays an important part in the memories of many in this community. And they do so with a joyous heart.
“The Lippi family are pillars of the Sandpoint community. They are generous of spirit and are always ready to lend a helping hand, no matter what the circumstances,” said Sandpoint resident Susan Johnson who experienced firsthand the kindness of the Lippis at the most difficult time in her life. “When my son passed away, many donations were made to my family from Ivano’s. We were told that when donations were requested, Jim’s response was always, ‘Tell me what you need.’ To me, that is the essence of Jim Lippi’s generosity – ‘Tell me what you need.’”
It is that very kindness that has inspired many. But perhaps what many may not know is the role Jim and Pam have played in many young people’s lives in our community. For many, a job at one of the Lippi restaurants was their first employment experience. And although they may have only worked for the Lippis during their high school or college years, the influence they have had on the younger generation has helped shape the adults the young kids have grown to become.
One former employee who is grateful to the Lippi family is former Sandpoint resident Ryan Armbruster.
“The world needs more Jim Lippis, not suits or good talkers, just Jim Lippis. That’s it,” said Armbruster of the quiet and humble man he said has made a significant impact on him personally and professionally.
When Armbruster was 13 years old, he wanted a new baseball bat. His dad told him he needed to get a job. So he did just that. “That began a relationship that is going on 13 years now,” said Armbruster.
Over the years Armbruster was promoted from dishwasher to busboy, pantry cook and eventually a pasta cook. But it was later in their relationship that Armbruster said Jim and his family had the biggest influence on him - giving him the gift of a second chance.
Like many teenagers, Armbruster developed some unhealthy habits which led to being fired from Ivano’s.
“Jim gave me 60 chances, and I took 61. Being fired by Jim still impacts who I am today,” said Armbruster. While the Lippi family forgave Armbruster years ago, he still said letting them down sticks with him.
But the story doesn’t end there. Armbruster struggled through his early 20s and said he eventually figured things out. When he returned to Sandpoint looking for a job, he did not approach Jim Lippi. But when daughter Katie learned that Armbruster was in need of work, she let her dad know.
“Jim made it clear that if I was going to come home for summer and work, it would be at Ivano’s. I was part of the family,” said Armbruster. “That summer was the most validating experience of my life. To be able to come back and work for one of the most noble people on the planet, years after I had taken advantage of him, was something I did not take for granted.”
Armbruster recalls how he watched Jim wait for hours to bail an employee out of jail when other employers would have fired the person. And how Jim spent countless hours putting on spaghetti feeds so a local sports team or school club could raise funds.
“I watched Jim for over ten years hire people that did not benefit his ‘business plan’ but ‘gave people a chance to better themself ’ plan,” said Armbruster.
Today Armbruster works in social services, a profession he said he chose in large part due to Jim Lippi. “Jim taught me that if you can help others, you help,” said Armbruster. “And that if you seek credit or praise, you will fizzle out very fast.”
These are just a couple of examples of the impact that Jim Lippi and his family have had on our community. To Jim and to the entire family, a heartfelt thank you for being a large part of what makes Sandpoint a great place to live.
Perhaps Armbruster summed it up best when he said what so many others feel, “This family has changed me into thinking about others before myself. I owe them a life of gratitude and cannot put my gratitude into words, despite my efforts. They do not want any praise and deserve every bit of praise they receive.”