Sammy Gaminian of Hye Quality Bakery stands at the back of his property, behind a gate near Caltrans property littered with trash. Photo by Donald A. Promnitz
Written by Donald A. Promintz
For Sammy Gaminian, Hye Quality Bakery is more than a livelihood — it’s a family heirloom.
The Armenian bakery, famous for its soft cracker bread, has operated in Downtown Fresno for 62 years, moving to its current spot on 2222 Santa Clara St. in the late 1970s. His children’s handprints are also there from when they were pressed in the wet cement.
Last week, he nearly lost everything.
On Friday morning, he received a call that a homeless woman had lit a fire to warm herself on the Caltrans property adjacent to his building. The campfire burned the garbage she’d been sleeping on, causing the wall to start to burn. A timely call from a security guard at the Canteen of Fresno Inc. vending company next door was able to save the business, but Gaminian said that if it had continued another ten minutes, the bakery would have burned down completely.
“I never had a call in the morning at 1 a.m. that says; ‘this is the Fire Department. Your building is on fire,’” Gaminian said.
The guard had only recently started working for Canteen, where they’ve also had a serious problem with the homeless encampments at the Caltrans strip of land, he said.
Earlier this year, trespassers also broke a cage at Hye Quality, ripping the compressor off of their trailer and destroying it to strip the copper, he said. Across his fence, Gaminian has to caution people to watch their steps — the ground there is littered with garbage, human waste and used needles.
“Look, they just graffitied that,” Gaminian said, pointing to a new tagging. “That’s brand new — that wasn’t there yesterday. That was not there yesterday.”
Tuesday morning, a cleaning crew arrived from the City of Fresno. However, the problem persists for the neighborhood, putting sanitation and even livelihoods at potential risk, Gaminian said.
“And there’s no end to it,” Gaminian said. “It just goes on. It’s continuous.”