Americana Shopping Center Bans Sale of Genocide T-Shirts

Harut Sassounian

BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN

Three young Armenian entrepreneurs rented a cart last month at the Americana — a large shopping-restaurant-theater complex in Glendale — to sell T-shirts, hats, and other clothing items advertised on their shop1915.com website.

After Americana’s leasing staff approved their merchandise, Tina Chuldzhyan, Alex Kodagolian, and Armin Hariri (a rapper known as ‘R-Mean’) began selling their merchandise.

On February 12, the opening day of their business, the three Armenians were unexpectedly told by Americana’s management to keep their cart family-friendly and remove all pictures of protests. Even though there were no pictures of any protests on the cart — just posters of people wearing the T-shirts on sale — Chuldzhyan told The California Courier that she immediately took down the posters to avoid any conflict with Americana.

On Feb. 25, Americana issued an ultimatum telling Tina and her two partners that within 24 hours they had to change the kind of merchandise they were selling, claiming that there had been public complaints about the ‘genocide’ clothing. Otherwise, they would have three days to vacate the premises.

Fearing that they were on the verge of eviction, the three entrepreneurs agreed not to display the Armenian T-shirts, and sell them only if requested by a customer. Later that afternoon, an Americana official reiterated that all clothing items with the ‘genocide’ theme had to be completely removed from the cart.

Design of one of the t-shirts banned from sale at Americana

This was a clear interference in the three Armenians’ business. Americana had no right to ban the sale of ‘genocide’ T-shirts — a violation of the owners’ freedom of expression. Furthermore, the T-shirts I saw while visiting the cart last week did not carry the word genocide, but had the following inscription: “WE ARE STILL HERE – 2015.” There were other T-shirts for sale displaying just the letter P for Pentagon Records, the name of the Armenian entrepreneurs’ company.

It is not certain if anyone had actually complained to Americana’s management about the Armenian T-shirts. No one had ever said anything critical to the owners of the business. Moreover, even if someone had complained, does it follow that Armenian clothing, with or without the word genocide, should not be sold at Americana? This is a slippery slope! Should anyone complain about Holocaust and Genocide books being sold by Barnes & Noble bookstore at Americana, would the shopping center’s management ban the sale of such books? How about the movie theaters at Americana showing films that may be offensive to some shoppers?

Realizing that Americana was violating her civil rights, Tina consulted an attorney to see what legal steps she could take to defend her business interests. She informed the lawyer that her contract with Americana did not prohibit the sale of genocide themed clothing. The contract simply restricted the sale of pornographic material, drug paraphernalia, and second hand merchandise. The attorney told Tina that even though Americana’s actions were clearly illegal, she had no choice but to comply, since she was up against a major corporation with a powerful legal team.

While disappointed that she was unable to defend her legal rights, Tina decided to follow her attorney’s advice, and reluctantly complied with Americana’s illegal and draconian orders, not to lose her fledgling business. “I felt as if I was back in the prohibition days, selling bootlegged merchandise,” Tina told The California Courier.

Last week, Tina continued to receive warnings from Americana not to display any genocide related clothing, even after she had taken down all other Armenian T-shirts, except the one that said, “WE ARE STILL HERE – 2015.”

This controversy goes far beyond the personal interests of three young Armenians. Americana’s actions affect the civil rights of all tenants and the entire Armenian community, particularly on the eve of the Armenian Genocide Centennial. Glendale Armenians and city officials, who had granted Americana generous tax exemptions, should immediately intervene in this matter, by defending the rights of these three small business owners.

Americana is owned by Rick Caruso who has enjoyed friendly relations with Glendale’s large Armenian community. Hopefully, Mr. Caruso will take the necessary corrective steps when he learns about his staff’s inappropriate and illegal actions.

No one from Americana’s office responded to my phone call, after I left a message requesting an explanation for the ban on the sale of Armenian clothing.

Discussion Policy

Comments are welcomed and encouraged. Though you are fully responsible for the content you post, comments that include profanity, personal attacks or other inappropriate material will not be permitted. Asbarez reserves the right to block users who violate any of our posting standards and policies.

26 Comments

  1. Armen Step said:

    We need to stage protests at the Americana, this is much bigger than the Starbucks fiasco.

  2. hye said:

    rick caruso needs some explaining to do, 1. what happened to playground that was intended for kids to play(this playground was part of the reason he got approval for Americana), 2. How did he get free land to build Americana and keep it.

    • Jasmine said:

      The revenue from the taxes generated by the Americana was the incentive to provide the land for the shopping center.

  3. Hratch said:

    I don’t think this is a case of civil liberties. The Americana is a private business on private property. The ownership can impose any restriction it wants. The attorney of Tina should have clearly told her this instead of flaming the fire by implying that she up against a large corporation. No matter the size, it’s still private property.

    In situations like this, the only recourse is to boycott the establishment or not patronize their tenants. This will send an economical message to the ownership. Other than that, there is not much that can be done. On a side note, it is rumored that Rick Caruso’s sister-in-law is Armenian….if it matters to anyone.

  4. hye said:

    I think Caruso was proposing something in Arcadia, I will be there to speak if there are any public hearings.

  5. Vindicated Man said:

    That mall will lose a lot of business. They need to correct the situation before it’s too late.

  6. Vahe Y said:

    My great-grandparents are rolling in their graves…shop1915.com…really?? First of all, let’s start with making a business out of genocide themed clothes. I’m sorry I don’t buy into the claim that proceeds will benefit an Armenian organization (as I have heard). Yes, and I own a castle in New England that I would love to donate. Why are we commercializing and why are we justifying the sale of 1915 items?

    Secondly, of all people, I’m surprised Mr. Sassounian has rushed to the defense of these young entrepreneurs making money off of genocide themed clothes.

    It would have been nice to rent a kiosk or cart and display a nice Thank You to Americans who helped during the Armenian Genocide, perhaps something along the lines of America We Thank You campaign that is being undertaken by our young, dedicated professionals. None of those people are out there to make a buck.

  7. Alex Baghdassarian said:

    If Americana’s management is not inclined to reconsider its decision, the owners of shop1915 should notify the Armenian Bar Association and consult with new counsel. It is quite possible that management’s ill-conceived decision actually exposes the Americana to legal liability, in addition to adverse publicity.
    Alex Baghdassarian, Partner, Peckar & Abramson, P.C.

  8. PAUL BARDIZBANIAN said:

    I SUGGEST YOU GIVE THEM TWICE THE TIME-48 HOURS-BEFORE WE DEMONSTRATE THERE WEARING THE SHIRTS AND PROTESTING THEIR HORRIBLE MISTAKE.

  9. Leah said:

    I love the tee shirts. We all need to acknowledge, remember and honor those who were and are victims of acts of genocide.

  10. Art said:

    Would say Turkish involvement but their too stupid to be anywhere up there in management. Probably some jew got butt hurt by it. Just in case your wondering why I pointed towards the jews just read up on the genocide and the Turk mastermind’s ancestors.

    … for the same reason a country that’s supposedly suffered a holocaust, time after time reiterates that the Armenian Genocide was a atrocity but yet NEVER has the state of Israel recognized it as Genocide. Especially now a days when Turkey and Israel are really budding heads why would Israel the land of the people that were massacred not recognize the Armenian Genocide for what it is????

    Makes you wonder doesn’t it?

  11. Diane Kupelian said:

    This is outrageous. There should be protests and petitions. Please give contact information for the management of this mall. This is completely unacceptable.

  12. Mike Mirakian said:

    Sounds like a case for Mark Giragos. Even if he doesn’t win the case just think about the publicity that would be generated.

  13. Sarkis K said:

    What for? So that the guys selling t-shirts could make more money on the blood of our great grandparents? Cashing in on the Centennial of Armenian Genocide is immoral, disgusting and plain sick!

    • Vahe Y said:

      Finally, someone is making sense here! I just dont get it — why do we have to sell T-shirts to raise awareness? Why does Genocide have to be mixed with this? There are plenty of Armenian businesses out there that can cover the production of T-shirts. It’s $3-$4 in Downtown LA to make custom T-shirts. Do we really need to be out there at the Americana selling T-shirts and baseball caps? Can’t we better direct our resources and human talent to something more meaningful, rather than a T-shirt that will most likely fade away as you wash it?

      • Vahe Y said:

        How does a T-shirt inform and education people about genocide? Are we at the mercy of shopping mall T-shirts? Can’t we do better? By making money off of this process?

  14. Satenik said:

    Someone must have given orders to stop selling this T shirts….if investigated oroperly they can easily find out who was paid by who in ordee to threaten these young Armenians to stop selling perfectly harmless items. Again hit them where it hurts. Stop buying or doing business with that company. You are the customer you have the power and make sure they know why you have stopped your support!

  15. Satenik said:

    And this in a country when you can easily buy a gone and yet some pussy was scared of T shirts….follow the money….who was paid what and by who to feel “threatened”by some cotton T shirts. This is not 1915 , we are not some hopeless bunch stuck in Der Zee desert. Name and shame this companies over and over again and stop your business with them. Enough is enough!They should know thatthey can not bully or intimedate Armenians when all they want is to remember their darkest ,most painful event in their history! As someone has already posted this is bigger than Starbucks and far more insulting to the memory of those who were the victims of genocide and the orphans .

  16. TENI HAKOPIAN said:

    THEY MUST HAVE LOST THEIR MINDS. 90% OF THE PPL IN GLENDALE ARE ARMENIAN. FURTHER MORE THE BUILDERS OF THE AMERICANA TOOK TAX PAYER MONEY TO BUILD THAT STUPID OUT DOOR SHOPPING CENTER. TOOK MONEY FROM ARMENIANS TO BUILD THAT CENTER.
    FORGET THIS I’M SHOPPING AT THE EMPIRE CENTER.

  17. TENI HAKOPIAN said:

    FOR THE 100TH YEAR ANNIVERSAY MARCH HAVE IT IN GLENDALE. START IN THE AMERICANA.

    • hye said:

      good idea. and if I’m not mistaken the “park” there is a public land for public use and americana should not be able to object

  18. Myron Boyajian said:

    This is a First Amendment Issue, Where is the ACLU in this matter, or are we ignored because the Genocide is not a “cause du jour?”

    Best regards,

    Myron Boyajian

*

Top