From California to Zaton, the Story of Jonathan and Megan and Why They Chose Croatia

Total Croatia News

Their first hotel is opening in a few weeks but they intend to expand to other Croatian cities.

Young American couple Jonathan Riff and Megan Horney are the new residents of Zaton, a small town near Šibenik. spoke to them on May 15, 2016, and they reveal why they decided to leave Los Angeles and replace it with Zaton.

Because of these two energetic young people, Zaton is finally getting a hotel you’d expect to find in some of the most popular island destinations in the Mediterranean. Construction and interior design works are slowly coming to their end and the hotel should be completely finished and ready for its new guests by the end of May.

Why Croatia?

I am originally from California, I came to Croatia for the first time in 2006 and fell in love with it. When I turned home, the only thing I could think of is how to go back and start a business – Jonathan reminisces.

When I realized I was constantly talking about Croatia and how I want to go back, I suggested it to Mega on my birthday last year, so here we are! – he added.

They both packed their suitcases and moved here. It was Megan’s first encounter with Croatia, but it was enough for her to follow Jonathan in his quest to stay and start a business.

– We looked at many different places and towns when we arrived and Zaton was not even on our list. We came here for the first time in September and I don’t know why we selected Zaton. It’s just amazing, it was as if it spoke to us and we simply fell in love with it. We must have looked at 10 other locations but we recognized the potential of Zaton, it has its history, all it needs is some love – Megan says and continues:

-We noticed the need for hotel accommodation in Zaton, and we had our vision. We found a spot where we can succeed, we are certain of it, and Croatia could benefit from a boutique hotel like this one.

The Admiral Zaton (Jonathan named it), is in the location of the former La Perla. It was completely redesigned and refurbished inside and out and all the design work was done my Megan. Jonathan, on the other hand, has some experience in tourism and back home he owns a textile company.  

Megan is glad to hear her design being compared to some trendy Greek hotels. It oozes Mediterranean with the sea as the main motif throughout the hotel. Local tradesmen and contractors were used in the project, and even though they are near the finish line, there’s no stress and the atmosphere on the construction site is quite laid back and friendly. Even the language barrier is no longer a problem, they’re all communicating in a funny mixture of Croatian and English.

-People here think we’re crazy. They keep asking us why we left California, but we like the fact tt we can go back home and spend some time with our family during winter. We love it here. Everyone is interested in our progress, they’re interested in what we’re doing – Megan says admitting that she’s having a difficult time pronouncing Croatian words.

They understand a lot, Jonathan is doing a bit better but pronunciation is still a bit tricky:

– We’re trying, I think I will have to take lessons. I understand a lot more than I can actually say. Constructing sentences is the hardest part of it all. I know the words but putting them together is a whole new ballgame. And all those ČŠŽĐ! – Megan was very frank about her troubles with the language. 

Even though the climate in California and Dalmatia are very similar, in the last few years it has changed a bit and now we can experience four seasons in one day:

– When we arrived in January it was so cold here. We didn’t have hot water for a few weeks and it was a really difficult period for me, but it was also amazing in so many other ways. Now I can’t wait for the summer, the sun, sunbathing. Now at least I have an excuse when I have a headache, here everyone says it’s because of the weather – it’s jugo- Megan adds.

The impending opening of their Zaton hotel is just the first step for Jonathan and Mega, at least when it comes to their business plans here in Croatia. Hotel Admiral is not just a project that they intend to open, run for a while and then close or give it to someone else to manage:

-We hope to be doing this for years to come. This is our start and we plan to open more of these hotels across the country. We would make a small intimate change in every one of them in order to make them more recognizable. We are aiming to attract guests between 30 and 40 years of age, people that are just discovering Croatia and young business people looking for something interesting, fun and still laid back –   – the couple talks about their future.

They won’t have to wait long for their first guests in the Amiral Zaton hotel since bookings have already started coming in, and since good news travels fast, their friends and family are already recommending them to everyone they know:

-The people back home are following our journey and they are excited to see how far we’ve come and they’ll visit us soon – Megan says.

And once they arrive, they will get firsthand knowledge on all that is happening in Zaton, Krka and all surrounding areas as well as their natural attractions, cultural and historical heritage since Megan and Jonathan are constantly on the road trying to get to know their new country so that they can pass on the information to their guests and offer interesting excursions and trips.

We wish them all the best on their new life journey and hope that coming to Croatia will prove to be the best decision they’ve ever made.   


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