December 21, 2018 — Croatian fish can be hard to find outside of Dalmatia. Well, the Viennese won’t harbor that complaint much longer.
The country’s preeminent fish-mongering brothers from Brač, Ivo and Toni Bartulović, will test their knack for innovation and entrepreneurship outside of Croatia. Their new venture, Gastrofish “Brač” will open on Jan. 12 in Vienna, Austria.
Ivo and Toni Bartulović made a name for themselves in the local fish trade by cracking the logistical and financial nightmare implicit in the words “fresh caught.” Their firm Centaurus employs about 40 people, operates its own fish market and delivers fresh fish to 200 restaurants and hotels in Dalmatia.
The brother’s success in Dalmatia suggested a logical move to Zagreb. They disagreed. Getting a company functioning and selling fresh Croatian fish took time and risk, they admitted. The capital’s market was flooded.
“Vienna is a huge, generous market, where almost two million people live there, so it’s worth trying,” Ivo Bartulić told Slobodna Dalmacija.
Vienna, with its large Croatian and former-Yugoslavian diaspora, seems a sounder investment. They’ve included the accent mark in “Brač” for good measure.
“We expect our people to recognize us first,” Bartulović said. “Then their Austrian friends who come to the Adriatic and know the quality of the fish we have here.”
The brothers’ knack for logistics remains. They contend the fish they offer will be caught in the Adriatic and delivered to Vienna in 12 hours.
The stores’ offerings will range beyond fish but focus only on products from this region.
“Everything must be [Croatian], original,” Bartulović said. “We even insisted that the shelves in the shop be made from Slavonian oak.”
The Bartulović brothers sold Croatian fish to Split and its surroundings for some time. But business is getting more complicated. There’s more work, but fewer earnings. The battles against burdensome government administration, a lack of labor, high taxes. They continue.
The brothers’ experience in Austria has been eye-opening. “Up until now, everything [after registering the firm] is simpler in Vienna,” Ivo said.
He added there was financial risk involved. “The cash register alone costs EUR 6.000.”
Be sure to check out our other coverage of the Croatian fishing industry.