The pioneer of Kras

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The host obviously knew what he was doing, as he had few problems keeping the attention of the group that slowly sipped the red 14.5 % liquor, while he went about describing in substantial detail the beauties of the region where it is produced. It was hardly a surprise discovering later that Paulina can be found in most of Slovenia’s best boutique hotels or that the Slovenian Tourist Organisation and the Public Relations and Media office use Paulina in their efforts to promote Slovenia abroad. Back in Slovenia, the address on the label leads to a tourist farm called Grca situated in Hrusevica, a small yet charming village near Stanjel, where Ivo Grca and his spouse opened a restaurant in the late 1960’s. In 1973, the ambitious couple added the first private gallery in Slovenia and hosted many gatherings of prominent regional artists from both sides of the iron curtain. Mr Grca grinningly volunteers stories describing how suspicious authorities made his neighbours write down the number plates of Grca’s visitors. He obviously enjoys reminiscing about those romantic years, although his interest has gradually drifted away from the artist community. Since then, Mr Grca has been active in many fields, but he is probably best known as the man who, in 1987, started bottling ‘teranov liker’, much to the amusement of his competitors who mocked him for entering a market that hardly seemed lucrative. It wasn’t until 2000, when he received notification from the relevant authority in Nova Gorica forbidding him from using the term ‘teranov liker’ as the brand, that he was able to ‘officially’ prove them wrong. He complied and invested heavily in rebranding the liquor ‘Paulina’, only to realise that an increasing number of producers, including his biggest competitors, were freely selling their liquor as ‘teranov liker’. Feeling conned; he demanded an explanation from the agricultural ministry. He is still waiting on a response. Disputes aside, Mr Grca bottles between 2000 and 4000 bottles of Paulina teranov liker every year and produces high-quality prosciutto – nearly 4000 sold last year – in cooperation with his Italian partner in St Danielle. To realize the untapped potential of his business, he is now faced with a problem typical of many relatively successful Slovenian tourist farms – whether to hire more people from outside the family and invest more heavily into marketing before infrastructure investments have been fully repaid. Hopefully, people such as Mr Grca will be increasingly approached by the more entrepreneurial tourist agencies, such as those already bringing tourists – cyclists – to Kras from as far afield as the Netherlands.