This is what Hanki Bar promises on Facebook and the reviews written by customers fully support this. “Brilliant, super, relaxing, pleasant, top staff, the fell's best bar, the country’s best pike meatballs.” The list of praises is endless.
Hanki Bar – Ruka’s relaxed lounge
"Hanging out before and after the slopes. Ruka’s best lounge and the most amazing people!”
I meet the entrepreneurial duo of Hanki Bar and I cannot help but ask, do the boys block out the more critical reviews. Tony Liljeström and Taneli Rantala burst out in laughter.
– Well it has been asked before, but we can say hand-on-heart that we haven’t blocked any. The feedback is good, I suppose it means we have done something right.
It sure seems that way. Customers are guided to Hanki Bar, which is located in the centre of Ruka's village, by a retro-style BAARI illuminated sign. A cosy and relaxed lounge atmosphere prevails inside, just as the motto promises. The coffee, which has been said to be the best in the area, is also fresh and tasty.
– I left Helsinki to escape the sleet. Nature is important to me, whether I am downhill skiing, hiking or snowmobiling. Here you can do all sorts of things for very little. I came to Ruka for the first time in 2010, at the time I was working in slope and restaurant duties at Ukkohalla, and from there I continued to Canada. And from Canada back to Ruka, to slightly smaller routines, Taneli says.
– Yes, we came here from Helsinki. We had to have a think with my girlfriend, whether we would really stay, but when she also got a job in Ruka, she was happy to stay, Tony grins.
Tony and Taneli got to know each other while working in Suomenlinna at Café Bar Valimo. Hanki Bar has been established by the owners of Valimo, and they continue to be shareholders and involved in operations.
– We first came here as employees, but in November 2015 we were offered the opportunity to become shareholders, and so we decided to give it a try. We have good employees working in the background. The paper work is practically managed by the people at Valimo and the accountancy office deals with the rest, so we can focus on what we know best.
– This is a place that describes us. We like what we do and we always try to have time to talk to people. This is perhaps more of a lifestyle than a workplace. This will be continued for as long as we enjoy it and it remains challenging. And then perhaps we will expand. Maybe at some point, you can visit Hanki somewhere other than at Ruka, Tony and Taneli suggest while sharing their secret plans.
The future plans of young men, who are barely in their thirties rarely are set in sand until their retirement days, but little birds sing that marriage awaits one of them in the very near future.
– Yes, that would be me, Tony smiles, the wedding will take place next year in Suomenlinna with Nadja, who works in the next-door building, at Bar & Grill Colorado.
The work distribution of the duo at Hanki Bar is clear; Tony works in the kitchen and Taneli takes care of the salon. Tony is also the man behind the relaxed social media posts. During the winter season, the duo is joined by two full-time workers and a couple of extra workers. The founders of the bar, Mikko Antti-Poika and Kaisu Myllylä also rush over from Helsinki to offer extra hands. The staff of Hanki Bar are also provided an employment benefit in which an extremely good discount on a seasonal pass to Ruka’s slopes is provided, which Taneli finds to be of utmost importance.
The menu has options from traditional Finnish vendace and potato mash to Mie Goreng and beer-chocolate cake. At lunchtime, there is also always a vegetarian option and ice-cream is also available as a vegan version. Their own reliable fisher delivers fresh whitefish, vendace and pike to the kitchen. The journey of the fish from below ice to the table can be seen with your own eyes in the video produced by Pekka Lintusaari. Pekka Lintusaari is also otherwise strongly involved in the background labour of Hanki Bar. In addition to photography tasks, he also operates as the permanent in-house DJ.
– Some of the top rappers and DJs in Finland visit us, and their autographs above the bar counter are proof of these visits. The music is easy-going; rap and reggae. During live music nights, the customers are clearly younger, but everyone is welcome, from toddlers to ladies.
Hanki Bar is also popular among the staff in the area. Is the presence of staff a good thing for the bar?
– Definitely! Staff form the best critics, they don't go to places, where the food is bad or too expensive and awkward. In addition, they often operate as attraction factors, who would want to step in to an empty bar. We always have people hanging around here, bypassers can see this from the windows and that makes them question, what’s this place as there are so many people there, Tony laughs.
Hanki Bar is now open for the first time during the summer too. The quieter season allows the duo to work without additional labour. As winter gets closer, extra hands are needed in the salon and you can send an application to email@example.com. If, on the other hand, you have a good business idea, Taneli and Tony welcome new entrepreneurs to Ruka’s friendly team.
Text: Salla Karhumaa
Photos: Hanki Baari and Ruka-Kuusamo Tourist Association