From locksmith’s workshop to european market leader — 70 years of RIKA
In 2021, RIKA celebrates its 70th anniversary. Reason enough to take a look at the history of the family business.
How it all began
In 1951, Karl Riener senior founded the locksmith's workshop RIKA, named after the initials of his name, in a 60m2 small room in the centre of Kirchdorf/Krems - only a few kilometres away from the company's current location. Under the difficult conditions of the post-war period, which was marked by reconstruction, he manufactured classic metal products such as railings or also sideboard closures. After opening two more, somewhat larger locations, Karl Riener senior finally bought the box factory in Micheldorf in 1969 and moved his production to the new location, which is still there today.
At that time, RIKA was already an important supplier to KELOMAT, a renowned Austrian manufacturer of pressure cookers, and equipped European and World Championships as well as Olympics with target transport systems for sports shooters. The cooperation with the Austrian postal service, which purchased components for cable bracing from RIKA, turned out to be a real stroke of luck a few years later.
The telephone box - a milestone
Only a few years after his son Karl Stefan Riener joined the company (1970), a decisive step for the future of the company was taken: They won the tender for a large-scale telephone box order from the Austrian Post. This provided the necessary capital for further investments and thus new business fields. The reorientation of production towards telephone boxes also meant that, in order to ensure greater utilisation of the machines, the production of sheet metal parts was henceforth the focus.
From pioneer to European market leader
In the 1970s, the long tradition of heating with wood in Scandinavia led to the development of the first wood-burning stoves as we know them today: with a good view of the flames behind a glassed door. The Riener family recognised the potential of wood-burning stoves on the Austrian market at an early stage and used the available machines for sheet metal processing to launch the first wood-burning stove in 1982 - the foundation stone for today's company was laid. But this also fulfilled a wish of Karl Stefan Riener: to create a product that combines technology and design, changeable in appearance and functions, for the private living space.
The first pellet stove was only a few years away. In the course of his travels abroad in the USA, Karl Stefan Riener became acquainted with this new technology. Without further ado, he bought an American pellet stove, which was very simple in its operation and unimaginably loud. He analysed the mode of operation down to the smallest detail and disassembled it into all its individual parts, in order to then build a first prototype himself, which, with numerous improvements, finally met European standards.
In the beginning, RIKA pellet stoves were exported exclusively to the USA - more than 10,000 units per year. Pellet stoves for private use were already widely known there. Gradually, wood pellets spread throughout Europe from Sweden, where they were already established as a fuel for industrial plants. Many wood-processing companies in Austria were so enthusiastic about RIKA pellet stoves that they started producing pellets themselves. This is how the triumph of pellet stoves, and with it RIKA's European market leadership, began.
RIKA experienced an enormous setback in the course of pellet stove exports to the USA, which - in contrast to sales in Austria - was entrusted to a corporate partner until 1999. Financial irregularities in the management almost cost the family business its existence. However, with tireless commitment and the drive for continuous development, even this difficult phase was overcome. As early as 2003, RIKA's production reached its limits - demand clearly exceeded capacity. The family Riener decided to restructure RIKA, which ultimately resulted in the division of the company into RIKA Innovative Ofentechnik and RIKA Blechkomponenten.
The existing production halls were soon no longer able to cope with the order situation: in 2005, RIKA opened another production site in nearby Adlwang. This was followed by the market launch of the first combi stove in 2011, pioneering heating technologies from RIKATRONIC to RIKA FIRENET to the RIKA VOICE system in 2019. The stove design also continued to develop, oriented towards new living and furnishing styles and the increasing trend towards individualisation. Only one thing remained the same: the quality standard. "We focused on the best quality from the very beginning - that is and remains our recipe for success," Karl Stefan Riener sums up.
The future: promising
In 2019, Karl Stefan Riener's son Karl Philipp joined the company, having already worked for the company two years before his studies and at times during them. "It was always clear to me that I wanted to continue the family business. The know-how and wealth of experience built up over the decades are of inestimable value and offer a lot of freedom for self-realisation. I really enjoy working with my father and we agree on most things," says Karl Philipp Riener, who particularly appreciates the cohesion in the company, underlining the advantages of the family business. Karl Philipp Riener emphasises that the passion for design and interior architecture also binds them together, and gives a glimpse of the future: "We think stoves further. Whether indoors or outdoors, as a piece of furniture, a design object or a source of heat with a feel-good factor - there are numerous possibilities around the stove. And we have big plans."