- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 December 19 , 2003 

Holding on by a Thread: Developers take tiny boutique to court

Inside the tiny shop is wall to wall weaving..

While many welcome the long-awaited construction of Yerevan's North Avenue, progress is coming with an unpleasant price for at least one family business at the heart of Abovian street.

As around them only walls of former businesses are standing, the Hayrapetyan family's Threads boutique is holding on and holding out.

Since 1994, the Hayrapetyans have made their little shop a virtual museum of knitting, using skills handed down through three generations of mothers and daughters. The quaint stone room has become popular among locals and tourists.

Now, developers have been offering the family $5,000 for its eight-square-meter store on the capital's main avenue of commerce.

What may be the Hayrapetyans' final rejection came last week and, depending on a court decision that could come as early as next week, Threads could be gone within a matter of days. Developers have applied to court to have the shop demolished.

More than simple sentimentality is at the heart of the family's refusal to move. They say the city's offer of compensation is unrealistic, and have hired an attorney to defend against he developer's claim.

The attorney, Arman Zrvandyan, says the money offered the Hayrapetyans is not enough to buy a similar size property in the suburbs - to say nothing of the fact that its current location is a prime retail spot.

"It is a right of the proprietor not to agree with an offer," says Zrvandyan. "We demand that either the Hayrapetyans are provided with a territory on one of Yerevan's central streets to continue their business, or they're paid enough compensation to buy that territory."

The quaint shop's days on Abovian street are numbered.

Manya Hayrapetyan says the family isn't trying to stand in the way of urban development, but neither is it willing to be taken advantage of.

"Being patriotic, we surely understand the importance of the construction that is done here, but why does it have to be done by causing us damage," she says. "This is not only real estate, but also a business which provides about 20 Armenian women with jobs."

Manya Hayrapetyan says her family has already suffered from the North Avenue project, as its 26 square-meter apartment was torn down because it was in the way of construction. The family was paid $7,200, but claim that some with smaller apartments received more.

"It is painful, that residents having smaller territory appealed and received twice more money," Manya says. "This time we won't let our rights be violated."

At best, the Hayrapetyans might be lucky enough to make it through the holiday selling season. Papagallo, a clothing store - separated from Threads by an already-vacated carpet shop - has been given until January 1 to get out.

Meanwhile, as Threads and Papagallo are fighting for their roofs, behind them several houses of old Yerevan await the knock on the door and the demand of development.

Robert Aghajanyan, 59, owns one of the houses behind Threads.

"When we look at the destruction around us it seems that there's a rope around our necks," he says. "But you don't know if they'll push the chair you're standing on or will cut the rope."

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