Jirair Avanian

Obituary: Jirair Avanian Entrepreneur in Armenia and US, Opened Dolmama Restaurant


YEREVAN — Jirair Avanian passed away, surrounded his by family, on January 20, 2024. He was 71.

Jirair was born December 8, 1952 in Yerevan. He attended Yegishe Charents school, gaining fluency in English. With his family, he emigrated to New York City in 1970.

He developed his business skills with his mentor, Galoust Galo, managing one of the Galo Shoes Manhattan locations. He subsequently opened a successful art gallery in the East Village, seeing its potential well before the area became hip, and later another on prestigious Madison Avenue.

In 1993, Jirair decided to move back to Yerevan, pulled by the desire to help his homeland and seeing opportunity in the newly freed economy. He believed that “my presence here was much more important than in the United States.”

In 1994, in partnership with locals, he opened the city’s first supermarket, the cafe Havaboun (Hen House), then Salt Shack craft shop.

Jirair’s most monumental achievement has been the exquisite Dolmama restaurant on Pushkin Street, which just celebrated its 25th anniversary. After the Soviet era, Dolmama’s mission was to “revitalize Armenian indigenous cuisine and be creative about it”. It has gained international renown, with luminary guests such as presidents from 15 countries, not to mention celebrities ranging from Michael Caine to Kim Kardashian.

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In his quest for cultural preservation, Jirair battled for years to prevent the demolition of the historic building in Yerevan where Dolmama is located.

Jirair constantly sought new business opportunities. He exported Armenian cuisine to the Dolmama franchise in Moscow. Seeing the beauty and potential of Dilijan, especially after the transfer of the Armenian Central Bank to Dilijan, he opened the Flying Ostrich by Dolmama restaurant in 2014 and most recently, Im Toon inn.

His business ventures will continue thanks to his family and many loyal, wonderful employees.

Jirair inspired everyone whose life he touched. Within hours of his death, social media was brimming with inspiring stories from his life. In just one example, Khoren Harutyunyan wrote on Facebook, “In November 2020, after discussing restaurants and menus, Jirair said to me, ‘think of something interesting, it’s time to start your own business.’ And it was those words that inspired me, in that terribly difficult period, to create value for Armenia and Yerevan, and we opened Zanfo.”

Jirair is survived by his wife, Aida; her daughter Marianna and grandchildren Lea and Mikayel, in Yerevan; his two sons, Shaant Avanian and 3 grandchildren Anya, Alex and Aram in New York City; and Andrew Avanian in Boston. The whole family is grateful to have just celebrated Christmas together in Spain. He is also survived by his former wife, Alice, whom he had married in New York.

As Marianna said, “The heritage of his love and light is so vast that he’s going to live in everybody’s heartbeats and in every beautiful thing he has left in this world.”

Topics: Obituary

Services were held at St. Sargis Church in Yerevan.

(Some background info was taken from Armeniapedia.org and Armenian General Benevolent Union.)


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