BY ELIZA GALFAYAN
After more than 30 years in business Massis Kabob has definitely perfected the art of the kabob experience in the fast food sector. When Jack Baghdassarian opened his flagship store in the Glendale Galleria in 1976 there was nothing like it in the fast food world. Today, the Massis International Grill franchise has five locations in four malls – including the Glendale Galleria, Sherman Oaks Fashion Square, Santa Anita Shopping Mall, and their newest location in the Century City Mall. Jack Baghdassarian, along with sons Peter and Gevik are taking their brand to new heights.
The Century City store opened on March 3, 2013 in the sleek dining terrace of the mall. “Don’t call this a food court,” jokes Gevik Baghdassarian. The elegant indoor-outdoor dining terrace is beautifully designed and has none of the food court qualities of other malls. Here there are no Styrofoam plates or plastic forks – instead every meal arrives on ceramic plates with real utensils. And the Massis Kabob store fits right into the modern landscape of the dining terrace with its mixture of old and new world elements sewn seamlessly together. One look and there is no mistaking its commitment to the old world – the huge print of the Nagorno Karabakh monument “We Are Our Mountains” or what is affectionately known as “Mamik yev Papik,” or the columns of cut Armenian letters that look like old hieroglyphs carved in red.
According to Gevik Baghdassarina, the family has had their eye on the Century City Mall for a long time. They had hoped to expand their brand of Mediterranean cuisine to the west side of LA so when the Westfield mall reached out to the Baghdassarians to join the dinning terrace it was the perfect match for both.
The clientele at the mall is made up mostly of the well dressed professionals who definitely have an appreciation for Armenian or Mediterranean cuisine. “Our food is no longer for an Armenian market. We serve more non-Armenians in the Glendale Galleria than we do Armenians,” says Baghdassarian.
According to Baghdassarian some 60,000 people work in the Century City area and word travels fast when there’s a new outfit in town. After just a week of being open the store is busy even for a late lunch crowd at 2:30pm.
“Before we opened at the Glendale Galleria if you wanted Armenian or Mediterranean food you had to go to a sit down restaurant but my father’s vision was to bring the same quality of food and service to a wider audience of people while making it affordable. There are lots of restaurants that serve this food but we have the best quality food at the lowest, most reasonable prices you can find,” says Baghdassarian.
Like the first Panda Express that opened in the Glendale Galleria the store has made its mark as the go to place to get delicious, high quality food under $10. But the secret to the family’s success is more its commitment to bringing the freshest quality ingredients to every meal they make while staying true to their core values.
These days brothers Gevik and Peter are have taken the reigns over the franchise to take it the next levels of expansion but Gevik Baghdassarian says father Jack Baghdassarian is still very much involved and stays hands on in the business “he’s still the charm of the business.”
Both sons are lawyers outside of the family business but as Gevik Baghdassarian says “nobody walks out of a lawyer’s office happy…but in this business where food is involved everyone leaves happy.”
And while the store in the Glendale Galleria is the busiest store it’s clear that their Century City location is full of promise as it caters to a whole new client base. And much like the look of the new store here – coupling elements of the old and new world – so is the symbolic face of the new Baghdassarian business franchise – old world charm and new world business finesse.
When Gevik Baghdassarian speaks of his father’s commitment to the family business it’s clear he is proud of the Massis name. “My father is really proud that the Armenian name and concept is here at this mall. We don’t want to shy away from our ethnic roots – we want to do the opposite – we want to transform our ethnicity into a positive experience for others and we do this through our food and our business.”