Harbor Spring’s Anahid Gharibian
How did I find alteration maven Anahid Gharibian in Harbor Springs, Mich., one of the prettiest cities on God’s green earth?
I have learned that no matter how desolate, remote, or isolated the location may be, it is not impossible to discover someone of Armenian heritage residing there if you search hard enough.
So it is with Anahid Gharibian, who is self-employed in the sewing business in her own piece of heaven at the corner of State and Lake Streets in Harbor Springs—at “Anahid’s Alterations.”
Harbor Springs is located on a beautiful portion of Lake Michigan called Little Traverse Bay. There is nothing little about it, not in its beauty or its prices for real estate, which are not for the faint of heart. The smell of wealth permeates the air.
It is the rich man’s northern paradise and for Anahid it has been a happy experience living in this paradise since 1983.
She arrived in this country from Tehran, Iran, where she still has relatives, though she says she has no plans on visiting her native place of birth. She is completely happy where she resides. She speaks English, Armenian, and Farsi.
Anahid has three brothers and two sisters, most of whom reside in Glendale. “I like Glendale because everyone on the street speaks Armenian,” she said. “It is a friendly town. That’s what I miss about living in Harbor Springs—the big Armenian family gatherings.”
Anahid is the mother of three sons, ages 31, 27, and 24. The boys were born and raised in Harbor Springs with mother proudly saying her youngest son holds the state of Michigan’s cross-country running record.
“Sometime I still visit the high school track even though my sons are beyond those years, just to see the kids competing,” she said. “I do miss being a part of it. The track coach laughs when he sees me watching the kids running track. Those were happy memories for me.”
One of the important things she loves about being self-employed is that she could always arrange her work schedule to accommodate her sons’ school-related conferences and sports activities.
Anahid learned the art of sewing from an older sister. She went on to do alterations in the upscale shops in Harbor Springs, and opened her own business in 1989.
How does the pretty, petite brunette feel about being self-employed? “I like it for the freedom it offers, and it enabled me to spend quality time with my boys. This way I am the boss, independent and responsible for it all. I am very happy this way.”
You’d have to be an expert at your craft to please the well-heeled customers she caters to. Harbor Springs is like the Gross Pointe of the North.
The sign in the window says Closed but a gentleman customer walks right in through the supposedly locked door. “It is a safe environment,” Anahid said. “That’s how it is here. They try the door even though the sign says Closed and they just come in. I don’t mind.” She rises up to lock the door for certain. It is Saturday and she has closed for the day to talk to me.
I found her by accident in late spring when I visited a nearby business selling fresh morel mushrooms.
When the owner discovered I was of Armenian heritage he volunteered that there was a 100 percent Armenian woman in Harbor Springs who did alterations.
Anahid is a delightful, quiet-spoken woman with a self-assured calmness about her.
She acknowledges Harbor Springs as an ideal location that flourishes with the very wealthy taking up summer residence in their waterfront condos and mansions. Yachts fill the marinas and the shops are elegant and expensive.
The houses that dot the streets of Harbor Spring are painted optic white—so pristine, bright, and elegant. They are surrounded with lush flowers and landscaping, and antique white wicker furniture fills the porches.
Harbor Springs is only a few miles from another beautiful Northern Michigan haven, Petoskey, located on the other side of Little Traverse Bay on Lake Michigan. It too is a tourist destination, and has an Indian-run casino as an added attraction.
It is obvious it takes big bucks to live here in these gracious, immaculately maintained homes. Who said money isn’t everything?
Anahid to her credit completed three years at Northern Michigan College majoring in computer science in Marquette, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
She told me that all the women in her family maintained their maiden name even after marrying. She thought all Armenian women did the same. I agreed it was a good idea for a woman not to lose her Armenian identity. She occasionally enjoys visits from Armenians from downstate who have also discovered the Hye Deegeen in the snowbelt.
Her comments about her life in Iran were frank. “Shah Reza Pahlevi did a lot of good for the country but a lot of people ended up in prison,” she told me. “The Shah was a dictator. There was no freedom of speech. As long as you didn’t criticize the government you were okay. The Islamic regime that followed the Shah’s departure from Iran made life worse.”
She laughed when I asked what her hobbies were. “Sewing takes care of hobbies,” she said. That indicates a happy shop owner.
The population in Harbor Springs diminishes in late summer but there is a noticeable increase in new businesses and shopping strips springing up. It is the luxury of downtown Harbor Springs that is the showcase.
There is a well-maintained airport conveniently located a few miles from town that provides very long runways to accommodate the private planes that belong to the summer residents who live in far-away places but make “The Harbor” their retreat.
Cooking, she told me, is not at the top of her list of favorite pastimes. “So,” I said, “you were not out there picking grape leaves like a good Armenian dan deegeen?”
Again she chuckled, saying, “The grape leaves that I have I purchased from the store, and they are in a jar that is still half full.” That’s OK, Anahid, I still can’t sew a stitch and no one ever gave me a gold medal for being a good cook, but my freezer does have a respectable stash of grape leaves I picked in the wild.
“Life is slower up here,” she told me. “And safer too.”
Her window flower boxes are flourishing and the bright colors of the blooms match the warm personality of the Iranian Armenian who is Anahid’s Alteration.
Pay her a visit on your next visit to Northern Michigan. And tell her, “Michigan Hye Beat sent you.”
Source: Armenian Weekly
Link: Harbor Spring’s Anahid Gharibian