Janet Saghatelian

A Holiday Tradition In Good Taste at Fresno’s Valley Lahvosh Baking Co.

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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.

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This prominent church has stood tall in what was once the heart of Old Armenian Town since 1914, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The late Janet Saghatelian marched into restaurant kitchens and talked to chefs with a business card in hand. “Taste my bread, I’ll send you samples, here’s my card.”

Janet was born in Fresno, and was the youngest child of Gazair and Hayganous Saghatelian.  She carried on her father’s hard work and dedication to the Fresno community for many years.  She started working at the bakery at a very young age.  She was devoted to her bakery and was extremely proud of the business her father and family had built.  In fact, Janet created the bakery’s heart-shaped “lahvosh crackers” (commonly spelled today as “lavash”). The cutter arrived in 1983, and these popular lahvosh crackers have been produced ever since. (They are called “Janet Saghatelian’s Hearts” on the package, too.)  Janet received great pleasure sharing her fresh lahvosh and “Peda Bread” products with others…no one ever left the bakery empty handed.  Janet’s daughter Agnes continues the bakery’s commitment to Gazair’s tradition in good taste and customer service. “Our lahvosh crackers are popular at wine tastings, as snacks and appetizers on hors d’oeuvre and charcuterie boards at parties, weddings, graduations, and as personal and professional gifts,” adds Agnes.

“Our lahvosh crackers are also low in fat and have no cholesterol: all that taste, versatility and wholesomeness, and still low in fat and cholesterol-free.  Food has always been a sanctuary for many people, and today more than ever before.  Everyone can create some joy by making these beautiful displays for celebrating the special occasions and events to come in their lives.”

 

The bakery’s original “Peda Bread” and other traditional breads have been featured at family dinners, celebrations, weddings, at local restaurants, church functions, and picnics in Fresno and the San Joaquin Valley.  The bakery bakes their lahvosh to crisp perfection.  What better way to celebrate the upcoming holidays, parties, and special celebrations than creating a festive charcuterie tray or appetizer board featuring Valley Lahvosh Baking Co. lahvosh crackers available in signature Hearts, Rounds, Stars and Christmas Trees shapes.  It’s not difficult to prepare a meat and cheese tray or appetizer board that everyone will rave about.  Adding various flavors from simple everyday ingredients takes very little prep time and just minutes to create and enjoy.

It’s easy to make your own charcuterie trays and appetizer boards that can include: sliced cured meats and cheeses, fresh or dried fruits and nuts, cured olives, marinated peppers, jams, mustards, pickles, sprigs of mint, basil, or rosemary, sliced breads, and fresh lahvosh crackers baked at Valley Lahvosh Baking Co.

Gazair Saghatelian

Another great holiday entertaining idea from Valley Lahvosh Baking Co. is creating a delicious thin crust pizza with their famous 15″ Rounds lahvosh. “Make it a fun family activity and let everyone create their own lahvosh pizza using our versatile 15″ Rounds,” says Agnes. “This product is available for purchase at the bakery, at local supermarkets, or online through the company website.”  For pizza recipes, go to: <https://www.valleylahvosh.com/recipes> https://www.valleylahvosh.com/recipes

“Gazair’s fresh baked “Peda Bread” is still hand-crafted from scratch,” says Agnes. “And customers can easily pick-up Valley Lahvosh Baking Co. lahvosh crackers in our signature Hearts, Rounds, Stars and Christmas Trees shapes. (The Hearts also come in a cinnamon flavor that make a tasty snack or dessert treat.)  Make your holiday celebrations and parties shine every season with traditional cracker bread and lahvosh crackers that add a cheerful touch to mezze platters, charcuterie trays or boards, hors d’oeuvres, dips and spreads.”

Valley Lahvosh Baking Co. is listed on Fresno’s Local Register of Historic Resources, and will celebrate its 100th Anniversary in 2022.  For creative charcuterie photos and design ideas from long-time Valley Lahvosh customers, go to:  https://www.facebook.com/ValleyLahvosh/?tn-str=k*F
502 M. Street, Fresno, CA 93721

Phone: (559) 485-2700

Fax: (559) 485-0173

https://www.valleylahvosh.com/

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