Maryan Brieger, Bel Air resident and Hickory Inn restaurateur, dies

Maryan Green Brieger, who operated the Hickory Inn in Harford County for more than 30 years, died of heart disease Jan. 4 at her Bel Air home. She was 95.

Born in Towson, she was the daughter of Elmer Green, an A&P grocery chain meat buyer, and his wife, Mary.

She moved with the family to Hyattsville, where she was a 1939 graduate of Hyattsville High School. She then attended the University of Maryland, College Park for three years and was a member of the Alpha Omicron Pi Sorority.

After her junior year, she moved to New York and obtained a bachelor’s degree at the Wood Tobe-Coburn School of Fashion Design.

She returned to Baltimore and became a women’s fashion buyer at the old Hochschild Kohn department store at Howard and Lexington street.

As a young woman, she was asked by a friend to go on a blind date. On March 13, 1945, she went to the Hotel Belvedere’s Owl Bar and was introduced to an airman, Conrad Victor “Vic” Brieger Jr., who was then serving in the Army’s Air Corps.

They had a whirlwind courtship and married June 1, 1945. He was later a chemical engineer at Gordon Cartons on Warner Street.

Mr. Brieger’s name for his plane was “The Blind Date.”

She raised a family, and after her father’s death she and her husband assumed control of his restaurant, Brownie’s Log Cabin in Hickory, which they renamed and enlarged as the Hickory Inn.

“My mother read multiple newspapers for menu ideas and current reviews,” said her daughter, Constance Brieger of Parkville. “She was interested in the details of running a restaurant. On Mondays, she and my father would drive to other locations to get restaurant ideas. They would often spend the day in New York City, which she considered a hot spot for restaurant trends.”

She said her mother planned special meals — buffet dinners that featured German, French, seafood or Italian themes.

“Her crab cakes were unbelievable,” said her daughter. “Her garlic steak with red wine was also amazing.”

Mrs. Brieger collected cook books and made a library of them. She also maintained files of her favorite recipes.

“My mother wanted to appeal to the average restaurant patron,” said her daughter. “But she also wanted to bring a little flair to the county.”

Staff turnover was minimal, she said, adding that her parents were known simply as “Mr. and Mrs. B” to their employees.

“Mrs. Brieger was the sparkplug. She was the life and personality of the Hickory Inn,” said Todd Holden, a Harford County historian and former patron. “When she made the rounds of the tables, she lightened the place up. She was all business with a soft, gentle touch. She kept it a family place.”

He said Mrs. Brieger had a memory for regular customers and recalled their names. She also recalled birthdays.

“She took an interest to make it a home away from home,” said Mr. Holden, a photographer who worked for The Aegis newspaper. “She recognized you. She knew how to play the game of being a good host.”

He also recalled how Mrs. Brieger and her husband made the Hickory Inn a gathering place for Bel Air residents who had previously gone to restaurants in Kingsville and Havre de Grace.

“They added a little bar that became a nice hangout for Bel Air businessmen,” said Mr. Holden. “There were always regulars there.”

“In the early days of operation, my mother opened the Hickory Inn in the morning and oversaw breakfast through lunch,” said her daughter. “My father came in at night and closed the place. It was a good working arrangement.”

In 1989 she sold the Hickory Inn and concentrated her energy on parish suppers and social events at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Bel Air, where a room was named for her. She attended the church for its morning service and afterward worked with other church volunteers to fold the weekly bulletin, The Trumpet. She called her group “the holy folders.”

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Feb. 17 at the Emmanuel Church, 303 N. Main St. in Bel Air.

In addition to her daughter, survivors include a son, William Brieger of Bel Air. Her husband of 57 years died in 2002.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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