Hajé: a real polder pioneer
Car drivers in the summer of 1986 on the highway A6 were the first to make a pitstop at the first roadside restaurant of the Netherlands. It was cozy and homey inside the restaurant. A young mother served a cup of coffee with cane sugar on the terrace, while the guests enjoy the wonderful view of the nature reserve. With the ‘Oostvaardersplassen’ in the backyard, young family De Jager had a beautiful location to start a catering industry. With father Hajé de Jager in the kitchen and his wife Feikje as hostess for arriving travelers. With grandpa behind the counter and the baby in its bouncer, a company was born.
Thierry de Jager, board member of the Hajé Shops, Hotels and restaurants tells us more about how it all started with his parents. He tells how the idea of a restaurant and hotel chain was formed on the back of a napkin. His parents Hajé and Feikje de Jager had dinner with their friends Otto and Phia in Amsterdam. They spoke about their dreams to start a restaurant. Hajé made a sketch of his ideas on a napkin. Those ideas became reality when he an his wife drove through the polder and did not encounter any place to eat or rest. This was the moment they made the choice to take a leap of faith and start as real polder pioneers by opening restaurant Hajé de Lepelaar. After the restaurant’s opening Phia gave family De Jager a scrapbook with photos of the construction and the napkin itself. The building and the napkin were miraculously similar.
In 1989 a second restaurant opened across the A6: Hajé de Aalscholver. “During those days the road was almost always empty and my father could easily walk across to fetch a carton of milk.’’ Thierry says while smiling. ‘’If we were out of bread, my father would call the postman to buy us 2 breads. When he arrived he would always say, ‘Next time I won’t do it again for you Hajé’, but only a week later my father would call him again.’’
In 1998 Hotel Joure was taken over by Hajé, this became the first hotel of the organization. All the hotel rooms got refurnished with an eye for detail and a veranda was build. Three years later, Hajé Hotel Heerenveen was added to the list as second hotel. A special place, considering Hajé de Jager had worked here as a little boy.
Later It also became possible to pass the night at Hajé Aalscholver and Lepelaar. Two water lodges were build here subsidized by the European union. Both lodges granted a wonderful view over the Oostvaardersplassen. Due to the success, a hotel ark was build at Hajé de Aalscholver in 2012.
Hajé Natuurpark is the most recently opened establishment (2016). A very special restaurant in the middle of nature reserve Lelystad. ‘’Our bond with the Flevo landscape has been strengthened’’, Thierry says. ‘’This is our fourth settlement in Lelystad, which is quite special. I can safely say that the heart of our organization lies within Lelystad. Literally our Culinary heart but also our Hajé Service and Support, our executive secretary department, human resources, marketing and administration. That, combined with this unique opportunities the township gave us, makes Lelystad a very special places for us.