1. Tell us about who you are and what you do.
Alan Clark – Founder and General Manager of Clark’s Cider SRL, which was the first authorised cider producer in Romania in recent times. We started to produce natural, craft cider in 2014, using only Romanian apples, and deliveries began in 2015 after we received all the authorisations required.
2. Share your backstory with us. How did your business or organisation come about and what was it that switched you on to this area in the first place?
A few months after arriving in Romania in 2001, I met Rucsandra, who was to become my wife, and started spending many weekends at her family’s home in Leresti, Arges, where there is a healthy apple orchard. It quickly became tradition to meet with friends there in the Autumn, collect the apples and take them to a near neighbour who possessed the necessary processing equipment to turn them into juice. There is nothing like the flavour of freshly pressed apples, so we drank a lot on the spot. We made cider from the remaining juice, normally 50-100 Litres per year. As the years passed, I started to pay more attention to the cider, and whilst it was always pleasantly quaffable, it started to improve. Friends who managed to taste the cider were unanimous in their appreciation of the cider quality, including British and French friends, who knew what real cider was, and Romanian friends who were experiencing it for the first time. Slowly, the idea hatched, to produce cider as a business in Romania “one day.” We made it happen in 2015 when we finally launched Clark’s cider, the first authorised cider producer in Romania.
3. What do you think or hope the future has in store for you and your business? Where do you see yourself or your organisation five years from now?
The present business environment is very uncertain. But we expect to continue to educate consumers and to grow, by entering new retail chains, and aided by distributors. We need to also grow the organisation, so that hopefully, I will reduce my working day, and spend less time with deliveries, etc. It would be good to do a few more festivals, since they are a lot of fun.
4. How has lockdown been for you and for your business and what have you done that has helped you personally and professionally?
The lockdown put an immediate focus on home delivery, so we had to get better organised for that. Working from home was easy for me and my small structure, and we became more efficient. Because of the lack of traffic in Bucharest, it was actually a pleasure to drive through the city, and I was spending much less time stuck in traffic jams than usual. The business environment is unpredictable, and our deliveries are behind last year due to the closure of bars and restaurants, and the overall impact of covid 19 on the economy. It’s anyone’s guess how 2020 will finish. I usually go to the cidery in Arges one day per week, by day-trip, but during lockdown I was staying overnight for the experience of waking up in a different environment. The location is Leresti, Arges, in the Carpathian foothills, beautiful scenery. From a personal perspective, I decided to cook outstanding meals, to get fit, and to catch up on reading. I enjoy cooking when I have the time and find it therapeutic. For the first three weeks I did cook some very tasty meals, but managed to put on a few kilos too, so I readjusted. The kids’ favourite Chinese dish is sweet and sour chicken, and I managed to prepare a pretty decent one. I planned to prepare a haggis from scratch for the first time ever, and forewarned a couple of Scottish friends, but couldn’t source a critical ingredient until now, so that objective did not get done. But I will produce a home made haggis before 2020 is out. Since I was more time-efficient, and spending more time at home, I found the time to get more fit than I have been in a few years.
5. What’s your take on Bucharest and Romania? What are the highs and the lows in your opinion?
I really love Bucharest and feel at home here. I like its somewhat disorganised, bohemian character, and its healthy focus on the arts. I especially like the hot dry season, the lifestyle that comes with it, and the mind-boggling choice of outdoor events. I have always lived in Cotroceni, which for me is the only place to stay. Apart from its near-central location, it has a kind of unique community feel, with many “Cotrocenist” taking an active role in taking care of the neighbourhood, and there’s some amazing architecture around. For me, the downsides are, predictably, the traffic, careless driving, lack of parking, questionable local politics.
6. What is your must do/must visit/favourite thing to do or show off to visitors here in Bucharest and Romania at large?
My programme for visitors depends on when they visit. In Bucharest the list definitely includes the Peoples Palace, Antipa museum, Museum of the Romanian Village. In the summer Vama Veche must be experienced, the Enescu festival, a craft beer and cider festival, a major music festival such as Summer Well or Electric Castle, a visit to the countryside.
7. What is your number 1 recommendation now for a book/film/series/app/ or gadget?
My favourite app by a long way, is Shazam. I love music and it’s so frustrating when you hear something you want to listen to later, and you have no way of finding out what it was.
8. If you could eat in any restaurant in all of Romania and have dinner with anyone in the world (not a husband/wife/relative) which restaurant would that be and with which person?
The restaurant would be Zexe Zahana – I love their kind of tasty Romanian tapas, and the interbelic atmosphere. The guest would probably be a close call between Sir David Attenborough and Ludwig Klopp, that Sir David would win.
9. Sum up your business in one sentence, what it is and why should people engage with it.
100% natural, craft cider, made from Romanian apples, a refreshing drink enjoyed by the open-minded.
10. Describe your Romania in one word.