Antanas Gricevičius’s Rūta (1913–1940)
The factory’s history began in Šiauliai in 1913, when, at the age of 36, A. Gricevičius set up a cauldron to make toffee in a small wooden cottage. The first people who worked there were the owners themselves – A. Gricevičius and his wife Juzefa – themselves. Back then, most business enterprises in Lithuania were under foreign management, so, in order to accentuate the Lithuanian character of the candy workshop, A. Gricevičius named it after the national plant rue (Lith. rūta). To begin with, the workshop manufactured toffee sweets, and soon branched out into chocolates.
When a signboard reading “Rūta” appeared on a tiny wooden cottage in Šiauliai in 1913, and Antanas Gricevičius started cooking toffee in a large cauldron, no one even dreamed that, after 100 years, that tiny chalet would turn into the oldest confectionery factory in Lithuania.
During the period of the Independence, the company flourished. The factory then employed 160 people and was turning out a whopping 300 brands of sweets. Rūta became increasingly prominent with the quality and variety of its products. Due to their one-of-the-kind taste, sweets made by A. Gricevičius were soon to find fans in many gourmets. The confectioner’s talent earned him 4 gold medals at different agricultural shows in Independent Lithuania, and another four medals at agriculture and industry expos. Rūta’s sweets were a hit at international shows, too, reaping the Grand Trophy in Italy in 1929, and the Gold Medal in Great Britain in 1931. In 1940, the factory was nationalised by the communists.
“Destroyed in the wartime almost completely and rebuilt in 1917, Rūta has now grown into a gigantic company and is the property of Mr Gricevičius, a diligent and energetic Lithuanian. Rūta’s products hold a steady and prominent place on the Lithuanian market, because they are widely promoted due to their high quality. Rūta makes 200 brands of candy, and its sales had reached one million litas in 1928 already. Rūta can hardly keep up with the local demand for its products, and as a result few of its products are made for export, although its products enjoy great demand abroad and in America, France, and Italy in particular. Rūta’s products have been awarded gold and silver medals at many expos, and won the Grand Prix big gold medal at the international show in Italy last year. Recently enterprise Rūta has moved into a newly-built spacious palace that had cost nearly one-hundred thousand litas, and has procured many new, state-of-the-art machines. The premium products of this company are considered to be the best.” (The Šiaurės Lietuva, 1930, No 1).
In 1929, A. Gricevičius built a new manufacturing plant with room for a store under a design by the famous architect K. Reisonas. A museum was opened in the very same building in 2012.
Rūta nationalised (1940–1993)
After the USSR invaded Lithuania in 1940, Rūta’s factory was nationalised on August 16th, and A. Gricevičius was judged on charges of embezzlement of Rūta’s assets. As a result of testimony by Rūta’s personnel, the owner was acquitted. A. Gricevičius’ adult children, daughter Janina and son Vladas, emigrated. Juzefa Gricevičienė and their youngest 17-year-old-son Antanas (there were a total of 4 children in the family: Antanas, Marija, Vladas, and Janina) were exiled to Siberia, while A. Gricevičiui and his daughter managed to avoid deportation.
In 1949, Juzefa Gricevičienė and her son Antanas attempted to escape from their exile, and succeeded in doing so. However, someone ratted them out when they were already back in their homeland. Antanas had just managed to see his father, who was grievously ill (he died at Christmas that very year and was buried in Šiauliai), before he was captured and exiled to Siberia once again. It was there that he married Laima Ignatavičiūtė. He repatriated in 1956.
During World War Two, the city of Šiauliai was ravaged, the bombs and the fires did a lot of damage to the buildings of confectionery factory Rūta, as well. They say that fire destroyed 80 tons of sugar and city dwellers would bring browned chunks of roasted sugar home for a long time.
During the soviet era, Rūta, just like every other confectionery factory, made sweets to standard, Union-wide recipes. As an exception to the rule, recipes formulated by the company’s specialists would be approved by a special institution in Moscow. It was for those reasons that the products of Rūta did not stand out much from those manufactured at other confectionary factories in the country in the soviet times.
Rūta of A. Gricevičius’s progeny (1993 and on)
Savvy, diligence, and love of sweets are the three cornerstone values that have followed Rūta right from day one, helping it earn its reputation and recognition by sweets lovers.
At the end of 1993, title to confectionery factory Rūta was returned to its rightful owners, the son and granddaughters of A. Gricevičius. They steered the plant along the course that its founder had set: once again, Rūta became a factory that made exclusive, original sweets that represented Lithuania. In November 2002, Antanas Gricevičius’s confectionery factory Rūta was reorganised to become private limited company Rūta.