This week's Cafe review in The Pitch gives a little history of the 96-year-old hotel building that now houses the new Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange. But the restaurant's co-owner, Ryan Maybee, is becoming something of an expert on the history of both the Rieger family that built the property and their various business interests.
And it's a fascinating story.
Alexander Rieger, who built the hotel in 1915, was a real mover and shaker in Kansas City at the turn of the last century. Maybee pulls out a copy of his 1936 obituary from the Kansas City Star: at the time of Rieger's death, the 59-year-old chairman of the Mercantile Bank & Trust sat on the boards of several philanthropic organizations and was the official Czechoslovakian consul in Kansas City.
Rieger was born in Hungary, arriving with his family in America at age 6. Doing research online, Maybee has discovered that other members of the Rieger family settled in different parts of the United States. There was a Rieger & Gretz brewery in Philadelphia, and Maybee has collected letters typed on sheets of this long-defunct company's stationery and owns three blank checks from the Rieger & Gretz account. The reason the checks were never used? They were printed to reflect a date in the 1920s, the year after Prohibition went into effect and most breweries in America went bankrupt.