Patricia Bartevian

Bartevian Inc. Is a Boston Landmark

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BOSTON — If you’re familiar with Boylston Street, you’ve probably seen Bartevian inc., a shop owned and operated by Patricia Bartevian, 99. She manages the business, founded by her father, as the last member of her family.

The quaint antique/consignment shop at 160 Boylston St., at Edgar Allan Poe Square, has been there for more than 100 years. Fans of Poe have sought out the place; passersby would simply be intrigued by the woman waving hello through the window. The smell of antiquity pervades the interior. There are some old CD, DVD, purses, jewels, but also kerchiefs, old cameras, paintings, VHS tapes, and even some antique kettles and vases. In the middle of this endearing mess, some treasures hide in plain sight. Bartevian is one of them. She had a big smile, long grey hair, and deep blue eyes. Her dazzling voice alone indicated that she’d had real-life adventures — adventures that she liked to tell anyone passing by her door.

The outside of Bartevian Inc.

Fleeing Death in the Ottoman Empire

Bartevian wrote a book five years ago about her family’s history, The Bartevians, A Boston Family, which she said, “is the history of a family of Armenian descent from 1900 to 2021.”

It all began with Patricia’s father, Gregory (Krikor) Bartevian, who came to the United States to flee the first wave of the killing of Armenians that preceded the genocide. He hailed from Van, Turkey, and studied in Istanbul. After graduating, he helped his father, Hagop, who owned a shoe factory. But Gregory lost his parents when he was a teenager, in the early 1900; his mother died from an illness, and his father was murdered by the Turks while he was travelling for work. Gregory joined the Armenian resistance and fought against the Turks. During one battle, he was seriously wounded and was sheltered by the Armenian monks. At that time, according to Patricia, the Apostolic Church used to secretly hide resistance fighters and secured immigration sponsors to the United States for them. Once healed, he managed to escape to England. Eventually, in 1905, he sailed on a boat from Liverpool to Boston.

In the United States, he worked for several businesses and made some crucial friendships. One of his friends was Jack Lowell Gardner, Isabella Stewart Gardner’s husband — yes that Isabella. They both became loyal Bartevian inc’s customers when Gregory first opened it in 1910, supported by his friends, when he gathered enough money to buy the building.

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Gregory decided also to help the neighborhood and to use the building not only to house his shop, but also to offer space to non-profit organizations.

According to Patricia, Isabella and her husband relied on him to find the perfect art and antique objects. Gregory even met his wife, Vera May Retan, in his shop.

In addition to that, Gregory was also involved in the Armenian Community of Boston since he wrote articles for this newspaper, which at that time was called Baikar.

Inside Bartevian Inc.

To the White House

If the Bartevian family’s path crossed the American one, it’s also thanks to Patricia’s aunt, the sister of her mother, Emma Elizabeth Retan or “Aunt Ibby.” When Ibby was in high school, she contracted polio and went to Georgia to recover. There, she met another patient: Franklin Delano Roosevelt. According to Patricia, they became close friends and after her studies, she worked at the Library of Congress and White House Library. That’s how Patricia and her sister Priscilla were able to spend time in the White House : “We sat in the Oval Office and rolled Easter eggs with First lady Eleanor Roosevelt on the white house lawn,” she remembered.

But the Bartevians were also known in Hollywood. Patricia and her younger sister Priscilla spent a year singing and dancing as “The Hickory Sisters.” “After our graduation at Emerson with our theater degree and passionate by music and dance, we went to Hollywood and were lucky to enjoy it,” Patricia said while holding a whole album of black and white pictures, full of huge pictures of two look-a-like girls acting and performing on different stages. They also had small parts in several films, including “The Emperor’s Waltz,” produced by Billy Wilder and starring Bing Crosby and Joan Fontaine.

Her father’s legacy

After their Hollywood journey, in the late 1970s, the two sisters came back in Boston to run the business. Priscilla died in 2006, leaving Patricia alone at the helm. Now she is running it with John LaFleur, both members of The Edgar Allan Poe Foundation of Boston.

Priscilla and Patricia helped to recognize Edgar Allan Poe Heritage in Boston. They even wrote to then Boston Mayor Thomas Menino to re-name the area “The Edgar Allan Poe Square” after the poet and in 2014, Patricia asked for the installation of the poet’s statue.

The Bartevians had altered the Bostonian landscapes in their own distinct way. Their building is still used for non-profit organizations : “Now we also have Emerson College upstairs and I take things on consignment to help the old people in need to get money so they can get food delivered here. When I’ll go then the board of director takes charge and still keep for the old people,” Patricia specified thoughtfully.

Patricia Bartevian is proud to follow her father’s path, who lived his own American Dream and who wanted to help people as much as he was helped.

Patricia Bartevian with her book

More than 100 years after his first opening, “Bartevian inc.” is still open every day. Between 1910 and 2022, the city and its streets changed, but “Bartevian Inc.” remained the same. Thanks to her book, her family’s history won’t be forgotten, so Bostonians can know the story behind this antique shop and how an Armenian family played an unique role in Boston.

To see more about the store, visit

https://www.facebook.com/Bartevians/

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