By Jane Snyder
When traveling to Zagreb, Croatia, supporting women’s businesses might not be the first thought on your mind, but by visiting the stores, restaurants and attractions created by women, you will be able to experience Zagreb through a different lens. According to a study published by Eurostat, Croatian women make up 30 percent of the business owners in Croatia. They impress tourists and locals alike with their innovative ideas.
While the businesses themselves are worthwhile places to visit, it is the women behind the scenes that transform the stops into a treasured experience. Through fabric, literature, local ingredients, past memories, and love, these Zagreb women are able to share their lives through their unique creations. Here is a look into five creative small businesses all established by the women of Zagreb.
Dora- Dora Rubic
Inside Dora, a women’s clothing boutique, white-walls accentuate colorful-print fabrics folded in the corner while designer Dora Rubic assists her clients. Located a block past the famous Kamenita vrata (also known as the Stone Gate), Rubic’s mother opened the shop when she was pregnant with Rubic. As a baby, Rubic was placed on the windowsill of the boutique in a baby carrier while her mother worked and designed fashionable women’s suits. Since inheriting the store, Rubic now specializes in coats and rain jackets made of crisscrossed and floral Italian fabrics. Her muse for her designs is simple, “My inspiration comes from my friends, myself, and women.” Each custom-made rain jacket costs around 2,000 kunas ($US 300.00).
Mali Bar- Ana Ugarkovic
At Mali Bar, a relaxed and intimate bistro and bar, on side road off Vlaska Street, locals sip wine while conversing around high top tables long into the evening. Yellow-painted walls and a teal wooden bar highlight the restaurant created by Ana Ugarkovic, a famous Croatian TV chef. Ugarkovic discovered her passion for the culinary arts in London and later wrote three successful cookbooks. Through her Italian, Spanish, and Croatian-inspired cuisine, Ugarkovic has become a big influence on modern Croatian cooking. She channels her love for comfort and local foods to craft a homey atmosphere. Ugarkovic’s fifteen-item menu of tapas style food includes dishes such as homemade ricotta and baby spinach ravioli (75 kunas or $US 11.00) and spicy chicken wings with a tzatziki salad (50 kunas or $US 8.00).
Booksa- Miljenka Buljevic
Filled with midnight blue and magenta velvet couches and the aroma of coffee, Booksa is a hub for young freelancers and students located on Marticeva Street. Owner Miljenka Buljevic started the book club Booksa with two friends after feeling stifled in her job as a translator. Though Booksa was established in 2003 as a café and book store, in the past five years Booksa has evolved into a moving library and a nonprofit book club. With an annual membership card costing 10 kunas ($US 1.50), a member can take or contribute any book they want from the green and orange book shelves lining the walls. Members are free to stay as long as they like without any pressure to buy a drink from the coffee café near the back of the club. Buljevic’s main mission is to promote literature and creativity. She says, “We try to connect literature with other art forms whether it be comic strips, music, or poetry.” Throughout the year Buljevic invites famous writers such as Zoran Feric to hold creative writing workshops built to inspire new forms of thinking.
Museum of Broken Relationships- Olinka Vistica
After a breakup, many people will try to forget the past. Instead Croatian couple Olinka Vistica and Drazen Grubisic created a museum: Museum of Broken Relationships. Started as a traveling exhibit, the museum encompasses the emotions that follow a breakup as well as showcasing all the random unwanted items that are left behind. Vistica, a film producer, began the collection of objects from broken relationships with her ex-boyfriend of four years after joking about what to do with all their own personal items. The museum, located in upper town on Cirilometodska Street, includes items ranging from past love letters to a MP3 player. Items are donated from all around the world. The museum evokes forgotten emotions and assists in providing a form of closure. The admission cost for the museum is 30 kunas ($US 4.50).
The Pushkin’s Office- Jana Iakusheva Varga
Located on Boskoviceva Street, The Pushkin’s Office is the only Russian restaurant in Zagreb. With stone brick walls originally built in 1908 and a flavorful menu of authentic Russian cuisine, the Pushkin’s Office gives owner Jana Varga a sense of home. Jana moved to Zagreb from Murmansk, Russia in 2013 after meeting now husband Bobo Varga through the internet. At first, they were only able to communicate in their second language English, but Jana picked up the Croatian language quickly by reading literature and interacting with Bobo’s family. After getting married, Jana and Bobo opened The Pushkin’s Office serving dishes Jana grew up eating. Instead of hiring servers, Jana and Bobo serve all the food themselves. Jana describes The Pushkin’s Office as a family business where even the customers are seen as family. She laughs as she says, “Our guests are coming to our home. I’m sorry that they have to pay!” An average meal at the restaurant costs around 150 kunas ($US 22.00).
These five women bring life to their creations through their dedication, passion and life experiences. They are just a few of the many women business owners who add talent and originality to the city of Zagreb.