Maker City KC

The spirit of Electric Park is alive at the newly expanded J. Rieger & Co. distillery

Here’s a brief Kansas City history lesson that connects KC to one of the greatest makers of all time.

How long has it been since you’ve been to the East Bottoms? You know, the area around the music venue Knuckleheads that’s now home to J. Rieger & Co.’s amazing and beautiful expanded distillery? Perhaps it’s been a while — but the folks at J. Rieger are excited to get people back to the historic neighborhood. Make sure you read this week’s feature about the head distiller at J. Rieger & Co.

Back in the day, the area was bustling with a large brewery called Heim Brothers Brewery. The building that Rieger is in now was part of the old brewery. The name Heim was big back then, not only because of the brewery, but also because of the amusement park that opened in 1899 called Electric Park. It grew to be so popular they had to build a larger park, outside of the East Bottoms at 46th Street and the Paseo. That park was open from 1907 to 1925.

In 1911, a gentleman by the name of Elias moved his family from a small town in Missouri to the much larger Kansas City. Elias had a son who was only nine years old when they moved here, and the young boy fell in love with Electric Park. He lived 15 blocks away and became a regular visitor. He had a wild imagination — and the park would become a huge inspiration to him. He grew up to be one of the most creative people in the world, and it wouldn’t have happened without the East Bottoms, Heim Brewery, Electric Park and Kansas City.

The young boy eventually grew up and became known as Walt Disney, one of the greatest makers and storytellers of all time.

I love that story, which was told to me by Ryan Maybee, who helped bring J. Rieger & Co. back to life. Go down to the East Bottoms, look around, and imagine the old amusement park. Go to the distillery, take a tour (daily tours start in August), sip on some whiskey at one of the bars, hit up the gift shop and hop on the 40 foot slide.

Cheers to Andy Rieger, Ryan Maybee and all of the crew at J. Rieger & Co.