FRESNO — In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Fresno had a thriving Armenian community in the southern part of the city known as Old Armenian Town. This was the center of Armenian life in which the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, playwright, and short story writer William Saroyan, born in 1908, grew up and where he gleaned many of his early stories. Valley Lahvosh Baking Co. was founded in 1922 by Armenian immigrant and master baker Gazair Saghatelian, and is one of the oldest, most recognized Armenian landmarks in Fresno. Gazair was an original member of this community of hard-working and industrious immigrants who settled in Fresno with his young family and worked to create his own business.
“It was a wonderful, flourishing Armenian neighborhood,” says current president and granddaughter Agnes Saghatelian. “Our family, we had the bakery and lived right next to it. So, the family lived and worked right here in Downtown Fresno and my mom and her siblings grew up here.”
Originally named the California Baking Company, the bakery started when Gazair began baking his authentic breads for the community. Gazair became famous for his original soft “Peda Bread,” and other breads he skillfully baked, and in the 1930’s, he showcased his fleet of trucks that delivered his fresh “Peda Bread” locally, adds Agnes.
The bakery continues to be operated by the Saghatelian family, and still occupies its original historic location across the street from the Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church. The Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church is the oldest Armenian Apostolic church in the Western United States.