There are lots of success stories of Croatian people in business all around the world. One of those is a construction company which was started by three friends from Croatia in a basement and has become one of the largest and most successful contractors in New York City.
Mistral Architectural Metal + Glass was founded in 2009 by three good friends born in Croatia. Joe (Josko) Lucin was born in Split, and Johnny Batelic and Nenad Bursic were born in Labin, Istria.
“We named the company after a Maestral or Bura, a strong wind…..and is also a play on our roots as M(ISTRA)L has the word Istra in it,” Joe explains.
The trio started working out of a basement in Astoria and say it was difficult at first to get awarded projects as they were new and had no proven track record.
“We were doing any work we could to survive but like hard headed Croatians, we wound not quit or let up our efforts.”
Persistence and patients started to pay off and the projects started to come in. The company slowly expanded and they moved out of the abasement to a 3,500 square foot warehouse 9 years ago. More big jobs started coming in and they now occupy 25,000 square feet, minutes from Manhattan which is where all of their work is done and have a team of 100 specialists.
“We have a design/engineering department, project management, a full metal fabrication workshop and an installation crew consisting of ironworkers, carpenters and glaziers. I run the office, estimating and sales. Johnny runs the operations, shop, logistics, and the field installation. Nenad (nickname Buki) runs and installs the largest and most complex jobs we have,” Joe says.
The company has worked with a number of Fortune 500 companies and some of the world’s leading architects. Some of their clients in New York include I-Heart Media, Swarovski, Citi Group, Related Companies, Campari, Nasdaq, Nike, Adidas, Nordstrom, Saks, Bvgari, Cadillac, Linkedin, Snapchat, Tiffany’s, Victoria’s Secret, and Starbucks.
Joe studied business in New York and worked in the restaurant business before moving on to construction. He was born in Split, his mother coming from Gustirna and his father from Mali Drvenik.
Johnny worked in bars and restaurants in Croatia and Italy when he was back home, and owned a bar in Astoria, NY while he was a master installer.
Nenad, who was born in Pula, is known for being the youngest person in Istra to have a glass business at the age of 16, disassembling his mother’s washing machine and assembling a machine to polish the edge of glass. He was cutting and installing glass and mirrors before children today know how to install a light bulb.
“Through it all, we retained our Croatian work ethic and culture and travel home frequently. Our families are still there as are our hearts,” Joe concluded.