One-Stop YUMMY! Shop Phoenicia Specialty Foods Celebrates 30th Anniversary in Houston

HOUSTON, TEXAS – October 8, 2013 – Phoenicia Specialty Foods, the iconic Houston destination for international culinary delights, delicious handmade confections and artisan goods, will commemorate its 30th year in Houston with a celebration of global proportions during the month of November.

Phoenicia started with a signature shawarma sandwich and grew into something more than you can wrap your pita around. Of Armenian descent, Arpi and Zohrab Tcholakian fled war-torn Lebanon, where their family owned a grocery store, and immigrated to the United States. Facing the collapse of the oil industry in the early ’80s, Zohrab sought economic security through business ownership with his wife. The Tcholakians realized Arpi’s shawarma was too good to simply remain a family recipe. In 1983, they opened Phoenicia Deli, a small, Mediterranean-style delicatessen and grocery near Beltway 8 on Westheimer Road, where cow pastures outnumbered retail centers at the time.

“We had no choice but to go into business for ourselves,” says Arpi. From humble beginnings, their business grew. The Tcholakians had their finger on the pulse of what would come to be Houston’s most heralded quality--its diversity. As Houston’s population expanded, customers from all corners of the globe began requesting that Phoenicia carry favorite products from their home countries.

“We have a Mediterranean background,” Arpi explains. “But soon, demand came for foods from other regions. We provided to meet the growing demands our customers. While we started with Mediterranean items, we grew to include products from Western Europe, then Eastern Europe, and eventually from all over the world!”

As the number of imports increased, so did Phoenicia’s buying power. Fueling the company’s successful wholesale and retail businesses, Phoenicia’s buying power also helped spread the influx of quality, gourmet, reasonably-priced international foods and products throughout Texas and neighboring states.

Furthering the Tcholakian family goal and talent for bringing people together, Phoenicia carries more than 15,000 products from more than 50 countries at down-to-earth prices. Phoenicia’s newest location downtown is a full-service foodie destination that includes the urban chic MKT BAR, offering gastropub fare and live music daily. With a loyal customer base of foodie fans from epicurious food lovers to celebrity chefs, Phoenicia offers something for everyone.

“I love to explore the produce section,” says James Beard-nominated Houston Chef and Restauranteur Monica Pope. “You can find Persian cucumbers, fresh medjool dates, fresh chickpeas and many more wonderful things. Don’t miss the in-store ovens cranking out fresh pita, too.”

“With their product base, it's the only place I can get certain things,” confirms Underbelly Owner and Executive Chef Chris Shepherd. “I especially like the haloumi and homemade pitas.”

“Houston’s international culture means that we can experience the world right here at home, says Susanne Theis, Programming Director for Discovery Green Conservancy. “While I love old favorites like cheesy pita bread, cabbage ecstasy, string cheese and Haig’s chili, the thrill of finding, seeing or tasting something completely new is what makes Phoenicia a perfect fit for Houston.”

Ahead of the national specialty market trend, Phoenicia mirrors the international diversity of its city and customers. The adaptability of the company’s customer-centric ethos is key in America’s second-fastest growing city, where the explosive population growth continues to make national news. According to a recent study from the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University led by Dr. Stephen L. Klineberg, Houston is the most ethnically-diverse city in the United States.

The Tcholakian family has always passionately supported Houston’s dynamic, diverse community. Community involvement continues to be an integral part of the family business, which supports a variety of local groups focused on arts, education, environment and human services including SEARCH Homeless Services, Houston Food Bank, and Society for the Performing Arts Houston. Phoenicia has also commissioned local street artist GONZO247 to design a mural in the downtown market to commemorate the anniversary.

To celebrate the past 30 years and exciting events to come, both the West Houston and downtown Phoenicia locations will feature month-long giveaways and Armenian-inspired dishes and baked goods.

  • YUMMY! $30 gift cards will be awarded to lucky shawarma and store-made pita bread patrons during the anniversary week.

  • Traditional Tcholakian family favorites will be served for a special family night buffet and night of eclectic live music honoring Phoenicia founders Arpi and Zohrab Tcholakian at the downtown location’s MKT BAR on Wednesday, November 4, from 7:00-9:00 p.m.

  • For the anniversary weekend, a giant Phoenicia boat will “dock” with free customer cupcakes, leading up to the official anniversary celebration taking place on Saturday, November 9.

Phoenicia will host its official anniversary 1983-themed Grocery Get Down celebration on Saturday, November 9 from 8:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. at MKT BAR. The evening will feature ’80s-themed music by DJ Portal Walker and the band Depressed Mode, ’80s-inspired light bites, and boutique wine, craft beer and MKT BAR cocktail specials. Tickets are free with registration through Eventbrite and a portion of the evening’s proceeds will benefit the Houston Food Bank. Dress in ’80s gear is encouraged.

About Phoenicia Specialty Foods

Offering food lovers more than 15,000 products from over 50 countries at down-to-earth prices, Phoenicia Specialty Foods is Houston’s premier family-owned, one-stop, gourmet international food market--and a dream that started modestly. In 1983, Bob and Arpi Tcholakian, Lebanese immigrants of Armenian descent, opened Arpi’s Deli, a Mediterranean-style delicatessen in West Houston. By 1992, the Tcholakians were renting additional space to store their many imported goods. Retail and wholesale customers were soon visiting the storage space to purchase a case of desired, hard-to-find specialty items, and eventually this grocery section became a specialty foods market. Phoenicia Specialty Foods has grown significantly by being responsive to loyal customers and maintaining its focus on offering a wide variety of unique, quality international brands not available elsewhere. More than a grocery, Phoenicia Specialty Foods is an experience. International shoppers and food enthusiasts alike enjoy fresh-baked artisan breads, award-winning European pastries, boutique wines and beers, quality meats and cheeses, a fresh seafood department, hot grill items, tasty prepared foods, exotic produce and a fine assortment of house wares. In 2011, Phoenicia Specialty Foods expanded with the opening of its downtown location and MKT BAR. Located within Phoenicia Specialty Foods Downtown, the urban chic MKT BAR offers gourmet appetizers, select wines, tasty beers on tap, a unique gelato selection and a wide variety of coffees and teas from around the world. Within walking distance to many attractions downtown, MKT BAR is a perfect place to enjoy before or after a game, a concert or a performance. For more information, visit