Pairing a homegrown company on the cutting edge of design with the creator of “Kansas City Whiskey” was the perfect match for telling the storied history of J. Rieger and Co., said Andy Rieger.
In an awe-striking ode to the company’s nearly century-old prohibition-era roots, co-founder Rieger commissioned Dimensional Innovations two years ago to craft J. Rieger’s new flagship — a 45,000-square-foot distillery within a former bottling plant in the heart of Kansas City’s Electric Park, he said.
“We needed the best in order to make history more fun [and] cool. It was a no-brainer of who we needed to work with to accomplish our goals,” Rieger said, noting a keen eye for detail and a lack of weak spots at the Overland Park-based Dimensional Innovations.
Boasting a museum and extensive access to each phase of the distillation process — from grain to bottle — guests are treated to a curated experience that includes viewing of a documentary film, interaction with artifacts that date back to the 1800s, and a product tasting.
“The feedback from the public of all age demographics — of both the entire facility, as well as the historical exhibit — has been nothing but everyone being blown away at the attention to detail that was administered throughout,” Rieger said.
Click here for details on distillery tours.
Early conversations about the project focused on a guest-first approach, ensuring each visitor walks away with a better understanding of the brand and its place in Kansas City.
“They brought us on kind of initially … to look at what the experience for a visitor would look like,” explained Derrick Riley, lead designer of the project for Dimensional Innovations.
“They are drawing on all of this history, the Rieger name and the Rieger brand from pre-prohibition … just the history of whiskey in general, the history of alcohol within Kansas City, but also kind of the story of their family immigrating to the U.S. and then moving into the Kansas City area and building what — at one point — became the largest mail order liquor distributor in the country,” Riley continued.
Click here for more on the history of J. Rieger and Co.
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Capturing such a journey presented a unique design challenge for the Dimensional Innovations team, allowing them to test their limits and tap into underused skill sets, added Elly Miles, content manager for the design firm.
“I have an extensive museum background and for [Dimensional Innovations] to be able to step up to that level of expertise and caring for these artifacts … doing what’s necessary to house these artifacts in custom cases … that’s usually not done,” she said of the way diverse team’s talents positioned Dimensional Innovations to deliver a one-of-a-kind design experience that best honored the J. Rieger brand.
Didactic and dodgy, museums have developed a bad wrap, Miles added. Dimensional Innovations aimed to shatter that line of thinking and create a space that modernized history.
“The way that everything is displayed, it makes you want to go out and interact with every single display,” she said. “You have the museum quality display and knowledge, but then a display that’s approachable and enjoyable … that’s not often achieved.”
Leather straps, brass binding posts, a historic clock, fresh takes on history are reflected in materials throughout the space, Riley added.
“Everything that we’ve chosen to fabricate and design with kind of was chosen in order to enrich that history and build upon it,” he said. “[For example] we’ve tried to maintain that integrity by exclusively using hardwood throughout the entire project … subtle details kind of reminiscent of their history.”
Open to the public for fewer than two months, customers are already engaging with the experience in a way that’s unprecedented — and exactly as the distillery’s leadership hoped, Rieger said.
With the new space, J. Rieger can take a step forward — building on a future for the company in a space that puts its past on full display, he added.
“Our brand can take the next step. Having something put into our neighborhood of this caliber will only change the trajectory of development for the positive,” Rieger said.