When Paul Ribary first opened Pearl and Stone Wine Co., his father — the incomparable former mayor and community leader Fritz Ribary — was one of its earliest supporters.
Now, more than 18 months after his death, Pearl and Stone has launched “The Fritz,” a new bottle of wine to pay tribute to a community pillar and his countless hours of dedication to North Bend.
“People know his story and know his legacy. We thought this would be a way to honor that,” Paul said. “The big picture for me is to have people open a bottle and remember him for who he was. Enjoy that memory we all have of that gregarious, joyful soul.”
Fritz, a descendant of Swedish immigrants who arrived in North Bend in 1917, was a third-generation Valley resident. He grew up delivering milk for his father’s 250-acre dairy farm, and over the years became a beloved figure know for the variety of jobs he held and the amount of hours he dedicated to his community
Born in in North Bend, Fritz spent almost his entire life in the Valley, save for a few years as a college student and young husband. He never had much money to give, Paul said, but was always the first to give his time.
“He was always trying to improve people’s lives,” he said. “He gave his time. He never had any money, but he wanted to give to the community.”
During his life, he served as a volunteer firefighter, president of the SnoValley and (now-defunct) North Bend Chambers, and eventually a term as mayor between 1988 and 1992, plus a number of other civic positions.
He was an avid supporter of the outdoors, trails and the Si View Parks District, said Paul, who was proud of the fact he’d walked the the equivalent of the circumference of the Earth on trails in the Valley.
Upon retiring from his career in issuance, he became a delivery driver for Frankie’s Pizza, hoping to meet more people. It was a role he held right up to the end of his life.
Paul said it was humbling being Fritz’s son. After his father became a fixture in town, he started to introduce himself as Fritz’s son because “everyone already knew who he was.”
“I just loved the fact that when someone would see him they couldn’t help but smile,” Paul said. “In his last few years, his only goal was to bring smiles, whether that was delivering pizzas or saying hi to someone at Si View park, his only goal was they had a smile on their face.”
When Paul, an engineer by trade, opened Pearl and Stone with a group of friends in 2013, he recalls his father having many questions, but always being supportive.
Fritz was the first person to volunteer to taste their early bottles and clean their barrels. When Paul couldn’t get out of his day job as a construction company owner, Fritz, a former commercial truck driver, would insist he drive to and from Yakima to deliver grapes.
Nearly every Saturday, he would be at their wine tastings, often in his trademark sailor hat, ready to strike up a conversation with whoever was there. If he happened to show up without his wife, Ruth, he’d joke with the group he’d be “Ruthless” that evening.
“He just loved talking with people. He didn’t care who was there,” Paul said. “This gave him one more excuse to do that.”
Early on, those tastings were held at the owners’ homes, Paul said. Today, the winery’s tasting room is in the city’s historic city hall building downtown, a place where Fritz served as a planning commissioner, city councilmember and eventually mayor.
With so many new residents moving to North Bend since Fritz time in office, Paul said he hopes the namesake wine can be a catalyst for people to share stories about his father and his family’s deep ties to North Bend.
“Being able to share his stories and our family story with people is remarkably humbling,” he said.
“I hope I’m able to communicate the level of compassion and love he had for this community. He just loved living here and being a absolute proponent of this places success.”
Check it out
“The Fritz” is available at Pearl and Stone Wine Co. (201 Main Avenue N., North Bend). 10% of proceeds go to the Si View Parks District.