A member of the Phoenicia team for 21 years, Ruth has seen a lot of changes in the store during that time. She started at Arpi’s Deli and has worked in many of the departments at Phoenicia. She eventually made her way to manager of the hot grill, where she is happiest. While Ruth has worked with so many great people, her favorite will always be Richard Willis. She loved working with Richard and was sad when he moved to the Phoenicia Downtown location. Ruth feels a family bond with her teammates and considers them her “work family.” Also feeling a bond with customers, Ruth has been their acquaintance for many years, often seeing kids grow up and bringing in their own children!
Ruth grew up in Mexico and remained there after her brothers had moved to Houston. She dreamed of coming to Houston and was so excited when she finally had a chance to move here, right away she began working as a cashier in a Mexican Café but she longed for more. She knew someone who was working at Phoenicia and they were very happy, they talked about their job in the most positive ways and it made her really want a job here but she wasn’t confident in her cooking or her language skills and was afraid it was going to be a challenge. When she finally applied, her desire to work was evident and she was hired, it was her dream come true! Ruth was excited in her new position and went to school to study and learn so she could be a stronger member of the Phoenicia Team.
Though different cultures and languages can sometimes be difficult, Ruth really tries to connect with customers. She is sympathetic to language boundaries and will often use her version of sign language to direct or satisfy a customer’s needs. In her wildest dreams she never thought she would learn so many customs! One thing she notes is that every country and nationality can agree on one thing…delicious food! She laughs as she says that everyone loves Shawarma! Shawarma was the first food she tried at Arpi’s. It is the healthiest sandwich. She smiles sheepishly as she said that on her second day she saw falafel and thought “What is that?!?” she nibbled a bite and fell in love with them! Her love of food is contagious and she wants everyone to share her passion. If she notices that people seem hesitant to try a shawarma she will describe it in ways they may relate to, in fact she often describes it like a burrito! And even though Ruth has worked here for so many years she NEVER gets tired of eating Shawarma!
Ruth dreams have been realized with a city and a job that she loves and she feels it just gets better and better. Ruth loves creating foods and is especially proud of the soup she makes for the hot grille menu, and she positively beams when she says, “I am proud of the job and I am happiest when Mr. Bob is happy!”
Ruth’s eyes sparkle and her smile is huge as she talks about Phoenicia. “Something holds you here”, she comments earnestly. The Tcholakian Family, the customers, her co-workers and Mr. Bob… they make you feel special.
Come experience the food and atmosphere that dreams are made of here, at Phoenicia!
Noemi came to Houston four years ago after living in Waller Texas, a very small town, northwest of Houston. She moved here to be closer to her aunts whom were living here and she hoped a bigger city might provide more opportunities for her 8-year old son. As she began looking for places to work, she came to Phoenicia excited about interacting with different people and cultures; it was hard at first because the food and customs were new to her but after being at Phoenicia over a year, it felt like home. While moving to a large city can be overwhelming, working at Phoenicia provides the comforts that she had living in a small town; regular customers, a warm-homey atmosphere and people who really care about each other. It took a while to reach that comfort level, the customers and their customs were very different from what she was used to but she found it was easier when she identified things that made them the same. Noemi smiles when she thinks about how similar cultures and food are; the pita often reminds her of tortillas from her home country and we laughed as we talked about how many of our wonderful breads, tortillas and pitas are used in lieu a fork and knife!
Noemi is a wonderful ambassador for customers who aren’t familiar with Mediterranean food; her first suggestion to a timid palate is our delicious hummus with fresh pita bread or flat breads with cheese- you can’t go wrong! Noemi always encourages people to try food, she tells them, “When you try it you like it!” You will often find her sampling her favorites like Baklava, Turkish delight, pita bread and the famous Zorab’s Italian Spices with olive oil and yummy fresh bread to very appreciative customers! With so many YUMMY choices at Phoenicia she asks herself daily, “What am I going to eat?” The answer is often Chicken Shawarma and with her favorite bakery a scrumptious fresh fruit tart.
As a manager at Phoenicia she enjoys teaching and managing people to be their best and she flourishes under the responsibility that it brings, she is eager to learn new things and her passion for Phoenicia is always evident, it even spills over to her young son…next to visiting the zoo, her son who would rather come visit Phoenicia than do anything! He visits often and you can be sure he is a good boy with a bright future!
Noemi is very impressed with the wedding cakes that they make in the bakery, she was always afraid of taking big special orders but now it is second nature to her. She attributes much of her confidence to working with Don, he is a great baker and a very kind, understanding teacher, with his gentle guidance she is learning so much and simply having him there makes things easier. While she struggled keeping things neat and organized, as they remodeled the bakery, the outcome was well worth it…the ice cream cakes that Phoenicia now offers in the bakery area are delicious and strawberry cake is her favorite!
Your travels may take you around the globe, but when you are at Phoenicia you are a part of our family and you can bet that Noemi is working hard to make sure Phoenicia is your home away from home!
Ahmet came to the U.S. from Turkey in 2001, hoping to earn a Master’s degree in business and math.They were his favorite subjects and he admits with a grin, “I like math.” With math on his mind, he moved to Florida and lived with a host family for eight months. Ahmet became an integral part of their family and often babysat their nine-year-old son. The boy helped Ahmet navigate his newly-adopted country, learn English and become a fan of baseball. Today, he always roots for the Astros!
With several brothers living in Houston and loving it, Ahmet decided to move. He attended a Christian school with ESL classes, where his primary book was a Bible. The words were very difficult for him to understand and he begged for something simpler to read, like a newspaper. The school’s strategy worked because he is not only fluent in his second language, but seems to have an affinity for languages. Whenever someone from another country comes to Phoenicia’s hot grille line, he eagerly quizzes them on words and phrases related to customer service in their country and can now say “Hello, may I help you?” in many languages. He is often heard greeting a customer in Japanese or naming different toppings in Spanish. He has even learned sign language. Ahmet works very hard to make people feel comfortable at Phoenicia. He wants them to feel as he does, like it’s a second home.
Ahmet has a passion for food, has worked at several pizza restaurants and is quite the expert with pizza dough, kneading, pressing and tossing like an Italian master. He also worked at a Turkish restaurant, where the owner taught him to make exciting entrées, breads, appetizers and desserts. Ahmet then took a chance and opened a restaurant in The Woodlands with his brother. It was a fun two-and-a-half-year adventure, but a desire for change led him to Phoenicia.
When Ahmet first came to Houston, his family took him to Phoenicia’s Westheimer location, where he was thrilled to find so many products from home. As a restaurant owner, he became a wholesale customer and found Phoenicia to be a very friendly company. Luis, Phoenicia’s driver extraordinaire, was one of his first friends in Houston and he often placed orders with Esin, a manager at the Westheimer store, whom he held in high esteem. He believed with so many wonderful people, Phoenicia must be a great place to work. One day, as Ahmet was lamenting his desire for a change, Luis suggested he come to work for Phoenicia. Ahmet loved the idea and went to the store where he finally met Esin. With his warm personality shining brightly in his interview, Ahmet was hired for the hot grille Downtown.
He enjoys educating customers about foods they may not have tried and keeps up with regular customers and what is happening in their world. Everyone is a “cousin brother” to Ahmet. With a positive disposition and eternal smile, he landed the nickname, “Smiley.” When asked how to make an “Ahmet Special” hot grille sandwich, there is no hesitation. “Chicken shawarma with hummus, muhammara, tomato, turnip, cabbage and tzatiki. That’s how it is best!” He also admits the Chicken Pesto from the cold deli is very good, too.
Ahmet manages to bring a bit of Phoenicia home to his four-year-old niece, who loves Ulker Gazoz drinks and eagerly checks his bag daily for the yummy treat. Hoping to someday find a special lady to share his passion for food, family and Phoenicia, Ahmet will happily raise the next generation of Phoenicia shoppers. Come Downtown to meet him and discover all the things that make Ahmet smile.
As owner and founder of Phoenicia Specialty Foods, Zohrab Tcholakian oversees operations and quality control. He is the creative lead and visionary in the growth of the family-owned business. Zohrab also contributes to the architecture and design of Phoenicia facilities.
Upon immigrating with his wife Arpi to the United States in 1978, Zohrab held a position in architectural engineering at Bechtel Corporation. These skills have influenced his current position as he has contributed to the design of Phoenicia Specialty Foods West Houston, Arpi’s Phoenicia Deli, Phoenicia Specialty Foods Downtown and MKT Bar.
Zohrab comes from a long line of family in the food business, working for his parents within their small corner shop market in Lebanon as a child. Both of his brothers are also in the food business and his three children currently hold management positions at Phoenicia Specialty Foods.
Zohrab is a philanthropist to St. Kevork Armenian Church. In his spare time he enjoys cooking and spending time with his grandchildren.
As owner and founder of Phoenicia Specialty Foods, Arpi Tcholakian has created a domain where devoted diners have flocked for her signature recipes since 1983. In addition to creating original recipes for Arpi’s Phoenicia Deli and the Phoenicia Specialty Foods prepared foods section, Apri oversees operations, quality control and manages Arpi’s Phoenicia Deli.
Arpi is the force behind the delicious entrees, including the famed Phoenicia Shawarma Wraps, Arpi’s Salad and Arpi’s Walnut Baklava. In 2010, Phoenicia Specialty Foods renamed their Mediterranean eatery, Arpi’s Phoenicia Deli, as a tribute to the family matriarch for her tireless dedication to the business and the countless number of customers she has touched over the past three decades.
Arpi is a graduate of American University of Beirut and is currently a philanthropist to St. Kevork Armenian Church. She has three children, all of whom hold management positions at Phoenicia Specialty Foods, and two grandchildren. In her spare time she enjoys gardening and the theatre.
Having worked at Phoenicia Specialty Foods since its inception, Raffi Tcholakian serves as Phoenicia Specialty Foods Operations Manager. In this position, Raffi manages the Phoenicia Specialty Foods IT network and software. He also oversees the market’s wholesale accounts, which total 1,000 servicing Texas and the surrounding states while managing Phoenicia’s Imports department. Prior to becoming the wholesale manager, he started the wholesale accounts division, expanded the West Houston market to a larger location and contributed to the addition of Arpi’s Phoenicia Deli.
Raffi holds a psychology degree with a business minor from the University of Houston. In his spare time, Raffi enjoys training for the MS 150 and other cycling races. A lover of music, if there is classic rock playing in the market, Raffi is more than likely working in the back office. He is married with two children and is a charter member of SEARCH Homeless Services.
Phoenicia Specialty Foods Wine and Beer Manager, Haig Tcholakian, manages the buying of select wine and beers for the Downtown and West Houston locations as well as MKT Bar. In addition, Haig oversees the selection of MKT Bar menu items. His specialty lies in finding boutique wines and beers from around the world from areas lesser known for these products such as Europe, Asia, the Mediterranean and the Americas.
In 2006, Haig returned to the family business after he worked in the corporate finance group at Moody’s Investors Service in New York City. Prior to this, Haig was a risk analyst on the trading floor at Reliant Resources in Houston.
Haig’s world travels greatly influence his position as the wine and beer manager. He has traveled to France to study Bordeaux wines, Lebanon and Syria to visit exporters and Japan for business and design ideas. Haig holds a Bachelors Degree in Finance from the University of Texas at Austin.
Her laugh is contagious, her enthusiasm captivating. Like the downtown staff she leads, Adrienne aims to consistently deliver a great customer experience. How does she juggle a multitude of responsibilities and stay so darn cheerful? True love. Phoenicia’s a special place for customers because it’s special to Adrienne and her team. She prefers to describe herself as a steward, acknowledging that it’s easy to manage when you have the best employees.
“I’m all about being upbeat and creating a memorable experience,” she says with hearty conviction. “When we enjoy what we do and work together, our store shows it and our customers feel great.”
Nothing makes her happier than customers taking ownership of the store. Adrienne regularly witnesses customers showing around their friends and families, like Phoenicia is their own little secret. She’s especially tickled when they ooh and ah over delightful aromas that greet them in the store.
For more than a month, Adrienne sampled Phoenicia’s culinary treasures–without eating the same foods twice. She recommends Labne yogurt as “wonderful to smear on anything.” Bayou City Sliders get a nod of endorsement, as does Steak & Tango Night from her husband. It’s just common sense to her. “All the food here is fabulous because the people behind it are absolutely amazing.”
After 17 years as an acclaimed chef in Portland, Oregon, Matt is returning to his Houston roots, where his culinary career began at age 10. While his mother worked an evening job, Matt wrote extensive menus, set elaborate tables, took orders and whipped up the meanest grilled cheese sandwiches for his two older sisters. Never mind that grilled cheese was the only item he could cook; it served as a springboard for a future career and rapidly rising star.
From his humble beginnings of grilled cheese, we’ve snatched up Matt to be our Big Cheese. You’ll find him throughout the store trying new items, perfecting and photographing recipes, straightening up shelves and working on a new, soon-to-be-released menu. His Phoenicia faves include The Butcher pizza, ceviche, beef shawarma and “anything Lito makes”. During his off-Phoodie hours, Matt likes to train labrador retrievers, raise chickens, keep bees, hunt, fish and fix “normal” food for his family at home. Since son Connor’s favorite dishes include the likes of chicken-fried pheasant and truffle butter pasta, we’d like to savor Matt’s version of “normal” food, too!
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