Are elected officials in Yerevan trying to take any local color out of the city's food scene? That certainly seems to be the case. Last year, the city's mayor issued a ban on street vendors -- many of them fruit and vegetable sellers -- in an effort to "clean up" Yerevan. More worrisome for Yerevan residents, it now looks like local leaders are turning a blind eye while the city's well-known indoor market, the now shuttered Pak Shuka, is in danger of being demolished by a businessman cum politician who reportedly wants to turn it into a supermarket.
In a detail-rich report, The Armenian Weekly lays out the whole sordid tale:
On Jan. 7, Tiv 1 Shuka CSJC, the company in charge of the renovation, began demolishing the inside of the landmark, which held ornate stone carvings considered by some as architectural jewels and massive intricate iron gates considered as the “gateway to the capital.” For the average Yerevantsi, to shop there was an expensive proposition, compared to the regular markets. In its heyday, once inside, tourists entered another universe, where they experienced true Armenian culture and hospitality, and were greeted by a myriad of proud and friendly vendors offering them samples—from the latest fresh harvest of organic fruits and vegetables, intricate displays of dried fruits and nuts, spices and herbs, an assortment of meats, seafood, and poultry, fresh lavash bread, sheets of dried fruit syrup (ttu lavash, or sour lavash) or roll-ups, and the ever-present fruit sujukh (shelled walnuts threaded on a string, dipped in grape molasses, then hung to dry until a thick and tender coat covers it in the form of a sausage). Pak Shuka offered an amazing range of goods and souvenirs, something to satisfy every appetite, all displayed on attractive stalls and decorated booths. Experiencing the atmosphere, color, and aroma was described as visiting a veritable “colorful museum of food.”
The current owner of the building, Samvel Aleksanyan (b. 1968 in Yerevan), a businessman (he owns the Yerevan City supermarket chain) and parliamentarian representing the Republican Party of Armenia, has tried to reassure Yerevantsis that he only plans to renovate the building and construct an underground parking area. Yet, despite his persistent denials, rumors abound that he plans to relocate his largest four-story supermarket to the site of the Pak Shuka building. Aleksanyan’s company, Fleetfood, Armenia’s largest food import conglomerate, enjoys a de facto monopoly on the highly lucrative imports of wheat, sugar, alcohol, and cooking oil to Armenia. He’s one of the country’s wealthiest entrepreneurs, widely known as “Lfik Samo” (a nickname where “Lfik” comes from the Russian word for bra, as Samvel’s father owned a bra shop in Soviet times).
You can the full story here. A lovely photoessay looking at life in the market before it was shut down can be found here.