Hasmik Avetisyan and Hovhannes Melikyan, owners of Gyumri Bakery

Fresh Lavash and Armenian Delights at Gyumri in Watertown

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WATERTOWN — On the corner of Waverly Avenue and Orchard Street, Hasmik Avetisyan and Hovhannes Melikyan are bringing the sights, sounds and smells of Gyumri to Watertown. The couple recently opened Gyumri Bakery, which specializes in providing fresh lavash and a range of Armenian products straight from the homeland.

Avetisyan and Melikyan, who are both originally from Gyumri, Armenia, had the idea to start the business in 2019, since there were limited options for buying fresh lavash in Massachusetts. When they baked lavash with their own recipe in 2020 and shared it with their friends and family, they received an overwhelmingly positive reaction. That was when the couple decided they would try to open their own store to serve the community on a larger scale. The official opening of Gyumri Bakery was in September 2023, and almost half a year later, they are slowly growing into a local staple.

A fully baked lavash is removed from the conveyor belt of the lavash oven imported from Armenia

Interestingly, their journey into entrepreneurship was not fueled by a background in baking or business. “We had no prior experience… and couldn’t imagine what we were getting into,” Avetisyan admitted. “My husband just wanted to get a place within the Armenian community and try to see if it would work. And so far, the response has been great.”

Their mission at the outset was clear — to provide fresh, delicious Armenian products to the local community. Hasmik explained that they use a family recipe taken from her grandmother to prepare the lavash, and the special oven used in the bakery is actually imported from Armenia. “Bringing the machinery was probably one of the biggest challenges we had, but it helps us make sure that the lavash is authentic in its taste and production… just like how you’d taste it in Armenia,” Melikyan explained.

Beyond the oven, getting the space renovated to support both a kitchen and store took many years to achieve, as the former business layout of their location needed to be completely changed and renovated. But for them, putting their location in Watertown was very important, and worth the investment to be at the center of the Armenian community. In addition to selling bread, they also donate and support local Armenian organizations, like the Armenian churches in Watertown and the Greater Boston Area.

A fresh piece of dough makes it way on the conveyor belt of the lavash oven imported from Armenia.

Gyumri Bakery’s impact has grown beyond Massachusetts, as they’ve started drawing in customers from Armenian communities in neighboring states. Though their initial idea was just to provide Watertown and its surrounding cities, word of mouth has helped spread their influence. The store itself does not ship the bread or their products, but has been selling their lavash to families who come from all across New England and the Northeast. The customers are willing to make the trek just to have freshly baked Armenian goods, which are often not as readily available outside of Massachusetts. As of right now, they do not provide bread to other stores, but may consider it if demand arises.

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After starting with lavash, the couple expanded their offerings to include a variety of Armenian products sourced directly from the country. This includes jams, juices, compotes, baked goods, teas, and other forms of fruit and vegetable preserves. As for future additions to their offerings, Avetisyan says, “We’re working on providing a wider variety of baked goods. We will add two types of Armenian-style bread, matnakash and pouri, and are planning to provide sweets.”

During the mornings and early afternoons, the aroma of the freshly baked, in-house lavash fills the store, and the decor such as posters and figurines of “Frunzik” Mher Mkrtchyan, transport customers thousands of miles away to northern Armenia. If you understand Armenian, you’ll also hear Hasmik and Hovhannes speaking with the Gyumri dialect.

Joseph Chavushyan and Ani Saghyan enjoying a lavash sample hot out of the oven.

With each piece of lavash, classic Gyumri joke and decoration from their city, Hasmik and Hovhannes strive to be the bridge between Gyumri and Watertown. For them Gyumri Bakery represents not just a business, but a labor of love and a commitment to preserving their culture.

To learn more about Gyumri Bakery, check out their website: https://www.gyumriarmenianbakery.com/

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