HOUSTON, Texas — Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), visited St. Kevork Armenian Church, on Sunday, October 4, as the community gathered to mark the 140th anniversary of the birth of Gomidas, to honor longtime parishioners, and to celebrate the opening of its renovated kitchen.
During his visit, the Primate presented the Diocesan St. Vartan Award to Zohrab and Arpi Tcholakian and Sam and Barbara Hagopian for their many years of service to the Armenian Church. Both couples are longtime members of the St. Kevork Church, having served on the Parish Council, the Women’s Guild, and other organizations.
‘The Church Is Always in Their Hearts’
The “St. Vartan Award” recipients, Zohrab and Arpi Tcholakian, came to the US from Beirut, Lebanon in the mid-1970s. After living in Los Angeles, they eventually settled in Houston, where they became active in the local Armenian community and were involved in the building of St. Kevork Church.
Following a successful career in architecture, Zohrab Tcholakian opened a deli with his wife, Arpi. The couple later expanded the business, establishing a large supermarket.
Called Phoenicia Specialty Foods, the supermarket carries Armenian imports as well as products from Greece, France, Lebanon and other parts of the world. The Tcholakians often donate food for church events and are known in the community for employing newly-arriving Armenian immigrants at their Houston store.
“They are very successful, and at the same time very humble,” said Parish Council Chair Vreij Kolandjian. “The church is always in their hearts.”
The other “St. Vartan Award” recipients, Sam and Barbara Hagopian, moved to Houston in 1979 from the East Coast, where they attended St. Sarkis Armenian Church in Niagara Falls, NY, and St. Paul Armenian Church in Syracuse, NY.
In Texas, the couple ran a pest fumigation company and later started a successful real estate business. Much of their free time was spent volunteering at church and Armenian community events.