Juggling fire, raising bees and making pickles: The CRE pros at Ryan Companies know how to live outside the office

beekeeping photo 2

Ryan Companies’ Dave Burrill isn’t bugged by a few thousand bees.

by Dan Rafter

Commercial real estate professionals work hard. (At least the successful ones do.) But this doesn’t mean that they don’t have lives outside the office.

Just look at the CRE pros working for Minneapolis’ Ryan Companies US. One of them is a fire juggler and another is a beekeeper.

Those are unique hobbies. And that doesn’t even include the Ryan manager who runs a pickle business.

Tim Hennelly, president of Ryan’s Great Lakes Region, is the fire juggler. He traces his hobby to his days in college, with friends taught him how to juggle plain old non-flaming clubs. But then he lived as a beach bum for six months on the big island of Hawaii. That’s when Hennelly decided that non-fire-based juggling just wasn’t enough of a challenge.

“The other bums were also jugglers, and they taught me to juggle fire,” Hennelly said. “We used to earn pocket change by entertaining tourists at Mauna Kea Beach Resort by juggling fire and knives and doing frisbee tricks.”

Hennelly doesn’t play with fire quite as much as he used to. But he does take out his fire sticks every summer to entertain his kids and their friends.

“No,” he says, “I’ve never been burned.”

Ryan's Dan Levitt is a respected baseball scholar, and the author of four books on the sport and its history.

Ryan’s Dan Levitt is a respected baseball scholar, and the author of four books on the sport and its history.

Dan Levitt, senior vice president of capital markets with Ryan, has his own unusual hobby. He’s the most devoted type of baseball fan, one who has written four books on the history of the sport. His latest book, The Battle That Forged Modern Baseball: The Federal League Challenge and Its Legacy, recently won a Society for American Baseball Research award.

Dave Burrill, director of management at Ryan, is a beekeeper, a hobby he’s held for three decades. Burrill maintains three to four hives at any one time. Each of these hives typically holds 30,000 or so bees and produce 150 pounds of honey a year.

Burrill doesn’t sell this honey. Instead, he participates each year in the MS 150 bike ride — to benefit the Multiple Sclerosis Society — and passes out a jar of honey to each person who donates to his ride.

The key to success in the beekeeping world? “It’s all about the queen,” Burrill says. “If the queen is happy, you make a lot of honey.”

Ryan's Jason Gabrick likes pickles so much he helped start a pickle business.

Ryan’s Jason Gabrick likes pickles so much he helped start a pickle business.

Finally, Jason Gabrick, division manager with Ryan, is in the pickle business. Gabrick, his wife Monica and another couple — Heidi and Ron — started Pucker Up Pickles in 2013. The recipe for the homemade pickles comes from Ron’s grandmother.

Today, the company boasts seven varieties of pickles, ranging from classic dill to horseradish habanero. Every jar is pickled by hand by Jason, Monica, Heidi and Ron.

Linda White, public relations specialist with Ryan, can vouch for the pickles. She has three different jars at home. They are all delicious, she reports.

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