Riefe’s Restaurant: A sad goodbye


The Davenport Morning Democrat, December 24, 1960.

It was 66 years ago that a father and son team opened what would become a landmark restaurant in west Davenport.

Orval Riefe and his son, Del, opened Riefe’s Sno-Cone Drive-In at 1737 Fillmore Lane in 1948. Located between West Locust Street and West 17th Street, the seasonal drive-in operated April through October.

Over time, Sno-Cone was dropped from the restaurant’s name and it became Riefe’s Drive-In. By the late 1950s the Riefe family decided to enlarge their business.  On November 13, 1958 Orval Riefe applied for a permit to demolish an old building located at 1417 West Locust Street.*

The building removed was originally the Schreck and Schmidt Garage that had been built in 1924. After the building was removed, the grounds were cleared and left covered with 12″ of “good black dirt”.* The work was finished by early December that year.

It was about nine months later that Orval applied for another building permit. The August 7, 1959 permit describes the new building requested to be built by Riefe as a new restaurant building. It was to include a one story building along with a basement that was to operate as both a drive-in and restaurant. The building size was 30 x 64′ with an off-street parking lot for 40 cars. The building was finally completed in early June of 1960.

Two more additions would add on to the restaurant as the drive-in portion faded out with time.

The second addition permit was applied for in November 1967 with work being completed by February 1968.* This addition was marked on the permit record as a 1 story, 37 1/2 x 20′ dining room addition on the western section of the existing structure.

The final addition was permitted on August 10, 1976 as an “L” shape addition added onto the rear of the restaurant. This work was completed in the spring of 1977.*

As for the original Drive-In from 1948. The City of Davenport Building Permits show that Orval Riefe applied for a permit that was issued on December 22, 1959 to tear down the restaurant. Someone has written on the permit card that the job was completed by December 24, 1959.**

One interesting part of our research was that no further information was found about the original building at 1737 Fillmore Lane. No other building permit cards, no information from the City Directories, and no telephone book information besides the original phone number in 1948 was 7-5160. How the structure came to be built and when is unknown.

The advertisement at the top of this blog ran in the Davenport Morning Democrat on December 24, 1960. This was the first year in their new building and the Riefe family started a new tradition of closing for two weeks during the Christmas Holiday and giving their employees a paid vacation.

Every year since 1960 Riefe’s Restaurant has closed on December 23rd for two weeks.

In 2015, 55 years after starting this vacation tradition, Riefe’s will close on December 23rd forever.

Rick and Dan Riefe, grandsons and sons of original owners Orval and Del, along with all their employees will be missed.

If you are reading this before last closing on December 23rd, it is not to late to head down to Riefe’s for a breaded tenderloin sandwich or their other home style foods while sharing in the memories of a 66 year old Davenport tradition.

*Microfilm Roll 025. City of Davenport Building Permits. Inact. 1920-1980.

**Microfilm Roll 018. City of Davenport Building Permits. Inact. 1920-1980.

(posted by Amy D.)



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