Ohio: Azerbaijan Armenian turns eyesore into ‘cool’ restaurant

Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)
April 17, 2004 Saturday, Home Final Edition

BUILDING A HOME AWAY FROM HOME ;
Azerbaijan native turns eyesore into ‘cool’ restaurant
By Dean Narciso, THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

Nine months ago, Garry Ambartsoumov sat inside a vacant East Side print
shop and waited for a vision.

For hours, alone with a notebook and pencil, the ethnic Armenian
scrawled notes, drew diagrams and considered color schemes for turning
the building into a showplace.

Ambartsoumov’s vision — the Blue Crystal restaurant and banquet center
— with its black-light-illuminated interior, textured coral wallpaper
and waterfall, opened last week.

“This is beautiful. It’s going to bring the Russian community together,”
said Alex Chernyakhovski, who came to the United States from Ukraine.

Dina Shirina, a Russian physician who immigrated here 11 years ago,
invested more than $60,000 in the Blue Crystal.

“I thought Columbus has needed someplace where you could go and dance
and eat, some place more festive, more than just food,” Shirina said.
“People from Europe want to eat and talk and meet people when they go
out . . . to dress up, show off and enjoy themselves.”

One who was glad to see him renovate the building at 2167 E. Livingston
Ave. was Bruce Black, president of the Berwick Civic Association and
coordinator of Columbus’ Neighborhood Pride program.

“That building had become an eyesore for that community — boarded up,
leaking,” Black said. “And we were scared that we’d have another empty
building in our community. No neighborhood wants to see that, especially
on your main thoroughfare.”

Black, who attended last Saturday’s opening, was impressed with
Ambartsoumov’s confidence and focus.

“He explained to me what his vision was, and I told him, ‘I think this
is definitely different from any place I had been in. This is really
cool.’ ”

Ambartsoumov moved to Columbus 13 years ago. He left his native Baku,
Azerbaijan, to protect his family from the growing conflict between
Christian Armenia and Muslim Azerbaijan, he said. “If I don’t come here,
my family could be killed.”

He came to Columbus with his wife, Lia, and their 2-year-old daughter
after living in Moscow for two years and working as a hair stylist. He
arrived here with $1.45 in his pocket.

Speaking no English, he delivered pizza, sold jewelry in a pawn shop and
painted apartments.

Four years ago, he opened 3-SG Body Shop at 1125 Cleveland Ave., a North
Side business he still co-owns.

“If you work very hard, be smart, don’t put yourself in trouble, and
show your face to people, you can make money here,” he said.

Ambartsoumov borrowed $22,000 on his North Side home and got $32,000
from his mother-in-law, Galina Gasanova, and $300,000 from other
investors to create the Blue Crystal, which is open Monday through
Thursday for dinner and can be used as a banquet or party center on
weekends.

Last Saturday, privet, the word Russians use to greet friends, was
exchanged throughout the evening, along with hugs and toasts.

“He understands our needs. And he’s got a good business orientation,”
friend Vazha Pinskiy said. “I think he’s doing everything right.”

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