Despite being on opposite sides of America, German-born Californian Jens von Gierke and New Yorker Michael Barry came together to collaborate on a shared labor of love. The result is a manifestation of their passion and drive to put a serene slice of the Californian coast on display for all to see, while embracing individuality and quirkiness in the name of total authenticity, Californian-style.
Michael Barry: I stayed at an interesting Riad in the medina of Marrakech, down a little thousand-year-old alley. There were donkeys pulling carts, street vendors, and from this unkempt little alley, you come into this amazing courtyard full of flowers, with birds chirping and a water fountain babbling away. This authenticity is something that sticks in my mind and I wanted to recreate that feeling with Timber Cove. If I was to use one word to describe Timber Cove, it would be “unique”. One can’t recreate that experience anywhere else and that’s what travel and hospitality should be about.
Jens von Gierke: For me, that would have to be a trip that I took with my wife and daughters to Nairobi in 2018. We asked if we could visit a rescue center that a hotel there is supporting. But it was very challenging, since most hotels do not like the guests to see much of the local community. However, our driver, who became our friend, decided to take the matter into his own hands. He called the founder of Children’s Garden Home in Nairobi, and we were able to visit on our last day. The experience, meeting 300 kids, was absolutely emotional, and we left the place with the desire to do more.
JVG: Well, it wasn’t simple. Back home, I did a lot of research, and it became obvious that the best way to help is to take things into your own hands. We had met many locals during our stay in Nairobi, and subsequent stays there, and were able to develop the WAVE Children’s Foundations work, which is an international nonprofit organization that brings about sustainable solutions for everyday challenges among underserved communities in Africa. We work in food and education programs and support children rescue centers and orphanages with a variety of integrated projects focusing on basic needs. We are also committed to empowering international volunteers to see themselves as global citizens and agents of change. For us, education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty.
JVG: Our Greenhouse and IT lab project at Children’s Garden Home started in 2019. We were able to purchase a piece of farmland, and within 12 months we had drilled for a well and installed a water tank and solar-powered irrigation. Then we added a farmhouse and water kiosk for the community and greenhouse. This was only possible with the support of our donors, who are drawn to our hands-on, local-presence approach, which ensures that all donations are spent as planned and promised. We are very proud of giving the kids at Children’s Garden home daily, nutritional food, and the opportunity to be self-sufficient with their food supply.
JVG: Right now, we are getting ready for our next project, a water well for a primary School and local community in the small town of Ole Seria in the Masai Mara of southwestern Kenya. It will change the lives of many kids and parents in that school and community.
JVG: I wish I had known how hard it can be to work with officials to get things done in hospitality. I’ve had many projects in many different destinations, and everything can be going smoothly—the investors believe in you, the concept fits, et cetera—and then an official with a different idea puts you back to square one.
MB: Well, I think everyone wishes that they bought Apple in the 1980s or Amazon in the 1990s!
JVG: For me, it’s Chip Conley. He’s one of those people in the hospitality industry who just gets it right all the time. And he’s always on top of what’s next. I’ve learned a lot from him.
MB: People who can think outside of the box. Like Galileo, Newton, Einstein, and figures who just approached things from an angle that nobody had thought of before. With Timber Cove, we try to think outside the box by embracing individuality and quirkiness. Everyone has a different idea of their perfect stay, and we strive to make it a reality for them.
JVG: I always traveled a lot when I was a teenager, exploring cultures and countries in Europe. During one of the trips, in Lichtenstein, I got to know the owners of the hotel I was staying at, and they inspired me to work in hospitality, which brought me first into the kitchen.
MB: I’ve been a developer for many years in the New York metro region. When Timber Cove first came up, I had little desire to redevelop a standalone hotel on the other side of the country, but Jens said, “Just come out here for a weekend and see it”. I went out and fell in love with the property.
JVG: Michael… move to California!