For the past 95 years, fresh bread has been baked daily at a corner bakery in downtown Fresno.
Valley Lahvosh Baking Company, located at Santa Clara and M streets, opened in 1922. Gazair Saghatelian opened the shop shortly after arriving to the United States from Armenia. Saghatelian was a baker in the old country and wanted to continue doing what he did best in his new community.
The bakery was part of a large Armenian neighborhood. Most of the homes are gone now, but the bakery, which is across the street from Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church, remains.
Saghatelian created the Peda Bread, a type of loaf bread that is served with many Mediterranean dishes, like shish kabob.
The Peda Bread is only available at the Valley Lahvosh bakery and is sold in a variety of sizes and shapes.
Valley Lahvosh Baking Company also produces cracker bread, called “lahvosh” in Armenian. Lahvosh is sold around the country, including at local grocery stores like Save Mart and Vons.
Have you ever had a heart-shaped cracker? They are popular at wine tastings. Those are made by Valley Lahvosh Baking Company!
They make their cracker bread in a variety of shapes and sizes. The largest is the traditional 15-inch round sheets. You can break off a piece and use it like you would any bread — spread some peanut butter and jelly on it, for example.
Lahvosh has a pretty long shelf life, so no need to worry about eating it all right away. My family enjoys it the old-fashioned Armenian way: We wet it, and then break it into pieces. It makes the cracker bread soft. We eat it with our meals like you would a dinner roll.
Cracker bread is no longer just an Armenian thing. Thanks in part to Valley Lahvosh Baking Company’s trademarked heart-shaped crackers, the bread has become very mainstream.
The Hearts, Rounds, and Stars crackers are great for appetizers. The Hearts even come in a cinnamon flavor, which make a great snack. I eat them like I would a chip. So good!
Valley Lahvosh Baking Company has grown a lot over its 95-year history. The plant now takes up the entire block, up to Ventura Avenue.
It’s run by Saghatelian’s grand-daughter, Agnes. She began working at the bakery when she graduated from Fresno State in 1993. When her mom Janet passed away in 2010, she began running it herself, making Valley Lahvosh Baking Company a certified Woman-Owned Business.
Agnes is proud to be able to continue her family’s legacy.
“I don’t think that my grandfather ever imagined that his business would be so big,” she says. “To see it expand to this level. I think he’d be so, so proud.”
Valley Lahvosh Baking Company is open Mondays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Tuesday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Use 15″, 1o” or 5″ Round Cracker Bread
Spread or brush a thin layer of pizza sauce
Add pepperoni, olives and mushrooms
Bake in 275-degree oven until cheese is bubble (don’t over bake)
(Recipe courtesy of ValleyLahvosh.com)
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