The HBH amusement and food complex in the village of Zibininkai, situated a mere 15 kilometers from Lithuania’s Baltic coast, has been for many years, for Lithuanians and foreigners alike, the most well-known destination in western Lithuania for its exceptional and high quality traditional Lithuanian cuisine. But what the belly-tapping patrons don’t see is that the sprawl of medieval countryside manor-themed restaurants, entertainment facilities, a large park and the Village of Mills (the newest launch of the complex), is being orchestrated by a charming and stylish woman who is also a tough entrepreneur. This, certainly, can describe Rada Matuleviciene, the HBH owner. She discussed her ambitions with The Baltic Times.
Let me start off by asking about your name - Rada. It is quite unusual to Lithuanian ears. Do you know its origin?
Sure, I do. It means “joy” and “happiness.” In Hindu “Ra” means “sun” and, by the way, Krishna’s most adored woman was Rada. Look, even in the Slavic languages it is the prefix for words having something to do with happiness.
I also guess few know what the three letters of the name of the HBH complex stand for?
Indeed, many folks tend to wonder what the three capital letters mean. The history of the name goes back to the times when we served German beer from Bavaria, Munich. It was said the beer had been brewed first at a German duke’s brewery, where it was known as HB. The German beer recipe reached us through Hungary, so here we go: the two capital letters meaning the German brewery, plus the letter H from the name Hungary.
It is. I think we should make the story more known here.
You have shaped up the multi-hectare HBH amusement and food empire. What does it mean to you personally?
It is certainly my baby. No less than that. No need to say, a baby is everything for most. And I’m not an exception. It’s my gist of life, love and passion. It’s me.
You exude this huge optimism one cannot miss when talking to you. What drives you forward in life?
The work, love and, sure, life itself.
Did you ever wonder what you did in your previous life?
I had been a teacher.
How do you know?
Well, I just know it. I was like an Avatar. It means I taught others. Well, let me confess to you that a respectable astrologer with whom I’ve consulted told me this. It sounds credible to me. I believe her. In fact, she’s mapped out my life, astrology-wise. A quite interesting stuff, I’d say.
You believe in astrology, don’t you? Many might get the impression that you like to rule the stars.
Of course, I do, because it reflects the celestial arrangement at the hour of your birth which, later on, leaves a huge imprint on your life. If someone doesn’t believe that, they should see how the planetary disposition affects the tides and low tides.
How would you describe yourself, in a few words?
Gregarious, seeking and one who is not afraid of challenges and novelties. Oh, yes, patient, sure (laughs). Also, loving life and able to enjoy it. I’m happy in life, honestly.
What do you believe is the HBH success formula?
A simple question, but I’ve got to think of the answer… In other words, you mean, why HBH has expanded so rampantly, quickly? Well, the answer is, we did everything with pleasure and love. And, believe me or not, without not giving a thought about gobs of money. At the outset, to tell the truth, we had only one desire: that everyone coming here would be fully fed and get outstanding service, which combined would get the patron coming back in the future again.
Are you a millionaire now?
(Laughs) Well, I’m in the papers. But all the money has been invested into something.
A big spa sprawls nearly at the HBH gates. Can you stand a competitor so close to you?
I’m really not afraid of it. I tend to repeat this: let’s be better than others around us; let’s make the people see it, and then no rival around will be feared of. Seriously, the investor will make us brace up. It is a good thing.
I heard you will be running their kitchen?
Yes, that’s right. HBH will be in charge of nourishment at the spa. This is what we have agreed upon already. In fact, this is what they wished for. But the cuisine there will be more European and targeting eco-eaters and healthy lifestyle buffs.
Are you generally happy about service in Lithuanian restaurants and cafes?
Obviously, not everywhere. It depends on many things and can vary incredibly within a few feet.
HBH has been known for large dish portions and friendly service, let’s leave alone the cheerful surroundings. Do you hire wait staff yourself?
No, I don’t. Someone in charge of human resources does that. I’m really glad to hear people enjoy the service our wait staff provides.
Is HBH a good workplace?
I believe it is. We’ve built a cottage-like living headquarters for our employees who come to work at HBH from all over. We’ve got really many applications for the kitchen and the restaurant positions. So many that we’re able to select a right candidate from a stack of applications.
What traits are you looking for in someone willing to work at the amusement park?
The person has to love his or her job, first of all. If you don’t like your job, the dislike will wear on the face. Our establishment is really lucky to have some people working here for years, and even from the very beginning nearly a dozen years ago.
Are you someone who the staff fears? How often do you tend to say: “You’re fired!”
Oh, it doesn’t happen often. But, well, it does happen occasionally, though. I can’t, for example, stand phony, conceited staffers, honestly. When I see such, I have to do the job. No bragging, the wait staff can make really good tips, but the tips come with the right attitude and service!
Do you have your favorite dish?
I taste all of them at HBH, in fact. I guess I’m not a type of a big carnivore, so, therefore, I eat less meat dishes. Perhaps I like herring with a hot potato most, frankly (grins).
Few can guess you’re in your early 50s, so stylish in the eyes of many. Do you pay much attention to what you wear on your face and body?
I devote quite some time for my style. I just cannot walk into the office in any outfit and be disheveled. And though I taste all the dishes regularly, I never, ever binge and; even in my position, I’m trying to be aware of the calories I’m consuming.
Do you seek anyone’s style advice?
No, I don’t, as a matter of fact. I’m my own stylist.
What is the achievement that makes you most proud?
The launched Village of Mills makes me really proud. It has been such a big project, with so many places of fun to visit, I mean the amusement park for children, tennis courts, an outdoor gym, private cottages with windows overlooking the fish-filled ponds, the baths.
We even mull building in the spot a traditional Lithuanian bakery where educational bread baking lessons would be taught, for example.
Many children find the HBH zoo very amusing. Was it your idea?
It was mine. I’d always wanted to have a mini zoo here.
Perhaps because I’m a zoo-engineer by profession. I just know from talking to other parents that kids today do not know how a duck, piglet or a chicken looks. Isn’t this terrible? Kids can confuse which of the household animals chews grass and which pecks seeds. How’s that? It was when I started thinking: “Gee, do something about it. Keep in mind your background as a veterinarian!”
What is your most favorite animal at the zoo?
All of them! But the littlest cuties are the ones I adore most!
Which from the bunch loves you most?
The dogs, I believe.
What does challenge mean to you?
First, it’s about assessing your possibilities before heading straight to meet it. It’s about overexerting and doing better than others, sure. It doesn’t matter if it is about implementation of a new project, deep diving or mountaineering.
How often do you go traveling?
I can let myself do that four or five times a year. One of the trips has to be devoted to tennis, another for diving, the third for skiing, the fourth for mountaineering and the fifth for getting to know something new. I like active leisure, definitely.
Would you go space traveling if you had such a chance?
I really cannot answer this definitely… I reckon I’d be afraid of the weightlessness. I guess it would nauseate me. I hope it won’t (laughs).
I’ve read somewhere that Lithuanian women are afraid of mice and spiders. Which of the two make you faint?
(Laughs). I’m not fond at all of spiders.
Do you believe in power of thought?
In fact, I do. If you direct your thoughts in one direction, you’d definitely see the idea materializing. It works most of the time.
Even on the sensual level?
(Laughs). No, not necessarily on that one. I’d like to tell a funny story on that occasion. A pretty successful woman exerts many efforts in looking for the right man for her, but cannot find one. Finally she goes to see a psychologist and complains to him – or her – that whatever she does and wherever she directs her thoughts in the pursuit, no result comes her way. You know what the psychologist replied?
Tell me, please.
The psychologist asked the unhappy woman this: “Have you left any empty room in your wardrobe for the man you’re looking for?” It turned out she had not… Quite strangely, I met mine when my children moved out out the house and emptied the wardrobe. The man I’m still with turned up after a couple months.
Do you believe in love?
I really do, as I believe that passion and love are not dependent on age or anything else.
What would be your suggestion to other women out there? Can you share some of the recipes of your personal success?
I reckon there’s no single recipe suitable for all. You just have to feel what kind of people surrounds you. Especially, when you’re a single woman entrepreneur. After divorce, I could not even stand the thought that someone else could be at my bedside in the morning, but now I’m happy… It’s just too personal and individual to be giving pieces of advice to the left and the right.
Imagine that one day you decide to hand over the HBH empire to your offspring… Do you have a plan ready for your life thereafter?
I’m realistic and it will happen someday, inevitably. I imagine I’ll buy a little cozy cottage somewhere in the mountains in Spain. I see myself opening a bar nearby and futzing around it. Yet, I see myself just being active in my old days…