EDC Mason Helps Local Business Work through COVID-19 Crisis
17 May 2021
News, Found Article, Blog
As co-owner of a small, family-run business, Mark Velasco has felt the pain of the COVID-19 crisis like thousands of others across the country. But his family's business, the Jalisco Tortilla Factory of Shelton, Washington has survived a number of tough periods thanks to a committed family and helpful community. And Velasco expects Jalisco's to survive COVID-19 too.
"We were prepared to do whatever we needed to stay in business, whether it meant leveraging our homes or 401k's," he said. "You don't run a business for 22 years and let something wipe you out."
Learn As They Go
The Jalisco Tortilla Factory was started in 1997 by Mark's mother, Maggie Velasco-Lucero, and step-father, Eddie Lucero. They settled in Shelton in 1978, moving from the Los Angeles area after immigrating from Mexico. Missing their native food and culture, they turned to Mason County for assistance in starting a business making fresh tortillas. At the time, Velasco-Lucero's plan was summarized by her following quote:
"It has always been my dream to open a tortilla factory in Shelton and show members of the community, both Hispanic and non-Hispanic, that the American dream is alive and open to all you are willing to reach for it! With my partner's help, I plan to make Torilleria Jalisco a thriving contribution to the community of Shelton and to its greatly diversifying population."
With loan assistance from the Mason County Economic Development Council Developmental Loan Fund, she was able to put together enough money to start a small retail store and factory with one old tortilla machine in a building across the street from their current location. But there was not much to the business plan beyond the desire to contribute to the community, said Velasco.
"Since I was a first-generation college graduate, she figured I could develop it, but I had a biology degree, so what did I know about business plans?" he said. "But she got the loans because I think everything was sold on my mother's reputation for an excellent work ethic."
Their first year with the little machine making 150-dozen tortillas per hour taught them a dramatic increase in sales was needed to survive. They turned to the wholesale restaurant market, developing tortilla chips and homemade salsas. Over the following years, they purchased a bigger machine that could produce 2,000-dozen tortillas per hour and moved into the larger, current location.
"By 2007, we were expanding into larger retail, like local grocery stores, more restaurants, and producing private label products from distributors," said Velasco. "That helped us get through events like the 2007 flooding or 2008 housing crash."