Abril Books owner Arno Yeretzian (Photo: Melody Seraydarian)
There are a few places in the Armenian Diaspora that hold a distinct cultural significance that rival the extraordinary spaces in the motherland itself. One of those places is the reputable Abril Books, which is located in the unofficial Armenian capital of the world, the Jewel City itself, Glendale, California. Over the years, Abril Books, which hosts a double-meaning in Armenian (“to live” and the month of April), has experienced several metamorphic stages to become what it is today: a long-established landmark.
Upon my arrival at Abril Books at its new location on Chevy Chase Drive one afternoon, I was greeted graciously – both by owner Arno Yeretzian and the high-spirited energy of the room itself. There were multiple customers browsing the shelves and thumbing through books and music and occasionally posing questions about the origins of a certain book from the seemingly never-ending options. Seated on a folding chair next to a new order of books that had just arrived from Lebanon, we got to discussing.
Abril Books owner Arno Yeretzian unboxing a new order from Lebanon (Photo: Melody Seraydarian)
“When my father Harout Yeretzian arrived in Hollywood, he began to take up different jobs and then realized there were no bookstores, no magazines, no cultural centers. There was nothing, really,” recalls Yeretzian of the literary void in the Armenian Diaspora of southern California. A former editor and print technician, Harout Yeretzian decided to launch the first Armenian language magazine in Los Angeles—Abril Magazine.
“At first, it was released every month,” explained Yeretzian. “My father was the editor. He saw the vibrant community here – authors, artists, businesses – and teamed up with my uncle, Noubar Yeretzian, who was very social. He actually began to collect all the advertisements for the magazine, and my dad wrote all the articles and interviewed everyone.”
Soon after the birth of the magazine in 1977, Abril Printing was established. Once the brothers acquired a printing press to print their own magazine, they began to receive all sorts of requests to print letterheads, business cards and fliers. They also realized a large number of authors in the area who were ready to publish their books. That’s when Abril Publishing started. Then they noticed a need for a setting to purchase these Armenian books, and so…you know how the story goes.
“The year after Abril Publishing started, the space next door opened up. They decided to buy that place and create an Armenian bookstore. And finally…,” chuckles Yeretzian, “Abril Books started in 1978.”
It was a family affair. His mother, notable artist Seeroon Yeretzian, and his aunt Seta Yeretzian, would do all the typesetting and work in the darkrooms. Yeretzian spent his childhood playing in the store with his cousins. Abril Books was …….