Rieve Brothers Restore A Store, Renew A Community

Sons Of Original Owner To Reopen Odenton Landmark

September 20, 1990|By Arthur Hirsch | Arthur Hirsch,Staff writer

It's not much as landmarks go, just a vacant gray-shingled store and a parking lot of broken asphalt. In the hearts of old-line Odentonians, though, Rieve's Store stands grander -- a mainstay before supermarkets came to town, a place where your credit was good and your conversation was welcome.

Now, 16 years after an armed robbery attempt chased Werner Rieve from the business for good, his sons aim to hang the family name out on Telegraph Road once again.

Carl and Jerome -- who goes by the nickname Hap -- have been renovating the inside of the store since shortly after the last tenant, Larry Kilgore, left on July 1.

The grocery that Werner Rieve opened in 1935 is expected to reopen this fall as a food store/delicatessen.

Carl said the brothers plan to keep the store open for a year or two, then raze the building and put up a strip of small stores, including a Rieve's Market.

Carl and Hap had planned to open Rieve's in early October and make the occasion part of an extended birthday celebration for their father, who turned 99 Sept. 15.

But their request for a building permit to remove an interior staircase is hung up on a legal question about an old county right-of-way that crosses their property line.

So they wait. And as word of Rieve's return gets out, lifelong Odentonians -- stunned lately by the surge of local development and road construction -- feel a swell of nostalgia.

"I was delighted; it was like one of the original families coming back in business," said George T. Murray Jr., scion of an old Odenton family that ran the Murray Hotel in the early 1900s on the very spot where Rieve's Store stands.

The hotel -- built at the junction where rail travelers from Baltimore and Washington would catch the Annapolis train -- was destroyed by fire in 1923.

Murray D. O'Malley, former county councilman and the only surviving founder of Odenton's volunteer fire company, said the news about Rieve's "brought back the old-time memory of the community."

Rieve's Store was vacant for about two years after Werner left the business in 1974. A succession of tenants ended with Kilgore, who ran it for five years.

Both O'Malley and Murray fondly remember the man who ran the store for nearly 40 years. They said Rieve was always willing to give a customer a break on a grocery bill, especially during the Depression.

"Because of the unemployment, Mr. Rieve carried a lot of the local people on his books," Murray said. "If it hadn't been for him, a lot of the people's situations would have been a lot worse. He was an outstanding citizen."

"People'd get out of work, he'd carry them over," O'Malley said.

"He still has a stack of unpaid bills in the house," said Carl.

Carl said his father was not able to be interviewed for this story.

To hear the two brothers tell it, Werner Rieve was easygoing with his customers, but stubborn about business decisions. For years he resisted Hap's attempts to have the store modernized, even as new grocery stores moved into town and Rieve's business declined.

Hap, 55, left the store in 1969 and went to work as a Fort Meade firefighter. He retired from Fort Meade last year. Carl recently left the car sales business on the Eastern Shore.

Both brothers plan to work on the store and help care for their parents, who still live in the family homestead with the wrap-around veranda a few hundred feet behind the store.

Werner Rieve ran the store as a combination lunchroom and grocery when he opened it in 1935. Carl, 49, said his father soon lost patience with the rowdy beer drinkers who frequented the lunch room and eliminated that part of the business.

Still, the store remained a gathering place for a circle of loyal customers and friends.

"We always had the evening crowd that came in" about 6:30 p.m., said Hap. "They'd stand around for hours and talk and joke."

A fire in 1944 nearly burned the place to the ground, but Werner rebuilt and expanded the store. He worked behind the counter until 1974, when he was 83. A robbery attempt that year convinced him to leave the business.

"A young man came in and put a gun between his eyes," Carl said. "He fell to the floor to get away from him. The guy ran out. He said 'I've been doing this for 40 years and never had that happen. I don't want to do it anymore.' "

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