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Expert recommendations and insider tips for first-time visitors and locals alike from ARTĚL’s founder, Karen Feldman, who has lived in Prague since 1994. Click on the links below for detailed reviews – from Feldman’s own unique perspective – of all the best that Prague has to offer...

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Interview: Milan and Jarka from Slovak-Czech Varieties

Published on April 23th, 2015 in Interviews

  • Milan and Jarka Uherik (photo courtesy of www.timesledger.com)

  • Slovak-Czech Varieties (photo courtesy of www.timeout.com)

We recently ran a post on what I consider to be a truly fabulous find: a little shop in Queens, NY that sells an impressive variety of Czech products (Spotted: Czechoslovak Snacks in Queens, NY). I simply could not pass up the opportunity to ask the owners, Milan and Jarka Uherik, a number of the burning questions I had about their unique business venture. Mrs. Uherik was kind enough to respond via e-mail:

 

 

KF: Tell me about your background: where are you from, when did you come to the US?

JU: I, Jaroslava Uherik am from a little village near Kladno, Czech Republic. I came to the US in 1998 as a marketing and sales assistant for a Czech company. My husband Milan Uherik was born near Topoľčany, Slovakia and immigrated to the US in 1988. He worked for many years as a research and development manager for a lighting company. Shortly after our marriage both of our companies closed their business and we had to look for jobs. It was after 9/11 and it wasn’t easy to find a new job. We both missed our taste of home and tried to bring it to the US, first selling at different Czech and Slovak festivals and later, in July 2003, we decided to open a regular store and then added an online store.

 

 

KF: Was it difficult starting a business in a foreign country?  

JU: I must say, I was surprised at how easy it was to open a business. The most difficult thing was the decision, because neither of us had retail experience. We had to learn a lot of new things. It was also difficult to find different local distributors of European products and to study import rules and regulations.

 

 

KF: Where do you import everything from and how frequently?

JU: We don’t import everything, there are different companies that import some Czech and Slovak products. We import products that nobody else brings to the US or is out of stock. From Slovakia we import Slovak cheeses like bryndza on a regular basis and Czech and Slovak magazines every two weeks. From the Czech Republic we import Kolonada wafers and other sweets and also traditional wooden toys.

 

 

KF: How do you choose what to stock in your store?

JU: After many years in business we know what people are interested in. Sometimes people give us some suggestion or special request, but we can’t import everything, because of the FDA and USDA regulations.

 

 

  

KF: What are your bestselling items?

JU: Czech and Slovak wafers like Tatranky, Horalky, Fidorky, Kolonada and then mustard, flour, dumplings, salamis and mineral water. Local Americans like our imported Czech wooden toys and the wooden toys made by my husband. He started making toys after Hurricane Sandy from salvage wood from a local park and from other recycled wood.

 

 

 

 

KF: Out of curiosity do you get a lot on online orders?

JU: Online orders are almost half of our sales. Our goal is that every Czech and Slovak family in the US makes one order per year – is our goal reachable?!

 

 

KF: How much do each of the following cost in your store?

JU:  

Rohlík $0.50
Fidorka $1.20
Tatranka $1.20
Kofola $3.50
Mattoni $2.59

 

Prices for those items in Prague: 

Rohlík 1.5 CZK = $0.058
Fidorka 10.9 CZK = $0.43
Tatranka 8.9 CZK = $0.35
Kofola (2l) 26.9 CZK = $1.05
Mattoni (1.5l) 13.9 CZK = $0.54

 

 

KF: Do you really make fresh rohlíky?

JU: We don’t bake rohlíky. One bakery makes them especially for us based on Czech recipes and we have them fresh every Saturday morning.

 

 

KF: Who are your regular customers?

JU: Czechs and Slovaks that come for food. Many times Americans that visited the countries and liked some products or forgot to buy some presents come. Local Americans come to our store because they like to shop for food from different countries.

 

 

 

Inside the shop (photo courtesy of www.timeout.com)

 

 

KF: Have any Czech celebrities visited your shop?

JU: Yes, Miroslav Donutil, Petr Janda and some hockey players. We also greet the Slovak president every year when he comes to annual the Slovak festival.

 

 

KF: What are the things you miss most about your own home country?

JU: Our families and friends. A good Czech or Slovak restaurant and how close everything is!

 

 

KF: Do you ever go back to Europe to visit?

JU: Of course, usually once a year in the summer.

 

 

KF: You stock a lot of traditional Czech treats. What do you think of American snack foods?

JU: I don’t have a sweet tooth and prefer healthy food, but our son was born here and loves Oreo cookies and Kit Kat (also my husband’s favorite). As for other snacks we like a variety of potato chips, veggie sticks and, my favorite, blue corn tortilla chips with guacamole.

 

 

KF: How is business?

JU: Depends on the season. We always say, not bad, but could be better!

 

 

Slovak-Czech Varieties

10-59 Jackson Ave, Long Island City, NY 11101

www.slovczechvar.com
tel 718-752 -2093
 

 

 

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