NORTHWEST INDIANA | Every family has that one store they depend on to get their everyday needs for the every day house, whether that store is a grocery market, candy store, bakery, restaurant or even a repair shop. Most of those small stores are usually owned by minorities and have been ran through their family for years or even generations. In this issue we take a look at some Mexican American owners of those same stores that have provided service for the everyday familes. Let’s face it, many small business owners in the suburbs are primarily hispanic and it isn’t just a coincident, their success lands themselves more than just an average entrepreneur status. They come from all over and we buy from them because to us, they are the best and no one else can possibly compare. Even with the economy in a rough state, those small businesses are still handling themselves pretty well and some are even expanding to bigger and better things. Some of those in that category are Northwest Indiana’s and East Chicago’s Mexican migrated companies known as Tortilla Neuvo Leon and El Popular.
V.F. Garza-El Popular, Inc Starting off as one of the many small businesses in East Chicago, Indiana, El Popular hit the spotlight in 1927 and has been everybody’s favorite Chorizo ever since. With 83 years under its belt, the business has grown not only in population with its customers, but in location. The company has grown so much that it was officially designated by the Indiana’s Governor Mitch Daniel as “The oldest Mexican-owned company in the Midwest.” Edward Garza, owner to El Popular and third generation to his grandfather Vincente F. Garza, tells us that “El Popular wasn’t an “overnight success” by any means. It took the hard work of our entire family. It was founded by my grandfather, Vincente F. Garza, in 1927. He had migrated to East Chicago, Indiana, from Nuevo Leon, Mexico, in order to find employment opportunities. While in East Chicago he saw a need for authentic Mexican foods and decided to become an entrepreneur.” In comparison to his grandfather, Edward believes in setting the bar as high it can go and never settling for anything less. With such a rich culture and background the Garza’s stand as one of the elite Mexican businesses to come across the Midwest.
With the economy today at an all time low there is no telling when or what will happen to small businesses around the nation, but for El Popular they can say they lived through the worst and survived it. Being founded before the 1929 stock market crash that eventually led to the Great Depression, El Popular stood on its feet and underwent many obstacles to keep its current status as the leading seller of Mexican food products in the Midwest. The company’s focus on high quality, fair prices, and good service, led them to gradually become preferred by the growing Mexican community of Northwest Indiana and Chicago. In 2009, El Popular recorded that year to be the most profitable year in history to the companies existence. “It seems that the public is still seeking high quality in its food products. In addition, the Latino population has been growing, while non-Latinos have been discovering the wonderful flavor chorizo can add to their recipes. Mexican foods have been “mainstream” for many years, but now Americans are demanding greater authenticity from their Mexican foods. Since our company has never lowered its quality to cater to non-Latino tastes, we’re benefiting from that increased desire for authentic Mexican flavors,” said Edward.
When competition struck in the same region, the huge food manufacturers that spent millions in advertising dominated the shelf-space in those same stores, but with Edward’s tactic of eliminating the less-profitable items and concentrating on their top selling products which were Mole sauce, Chocolate, and their number one product Chorizo, they were able to beat out most competing brands and keep the company solidified as the best in the region. Because of the advertisement of El Popular Chorizo and the many miles traveled on the road to expose the product the famous Chorizo can be found in the largest chain-stores from the Midwest to the East Coast.
“It’s mainly our high standards of quality, but also our uncompromising dedication to authenticity. El Popular Chorizo is made to my grandfather’s recipe, using nothing but the finest ingredients. Unlike our competitors, El Popular Chorizo contains no fillers or organ meats-it’s all pure, USDA-inspected pork cuts. With less fat than other chorizos, it doesn’t cook down to nothing in the pan, you get more meat and less grease,” said Edward Garza. The state of the art equipment and facility used by El Popular is another plus for the companies success and definitely separates them from any other competing contenders. “We are the only manufacturer that is Mexican-owned, our competitors merely give Mexican sounding names to their products. In fact, we’re the oldest Mexican-owned chorizo manufacturer in the entire Eastern United States, from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean,” stated Edward.
For our fellow business owners Latinos are the largest and fastest growing ethnic group in America, providing many opportunities within that market. And as we move into the mainstream, it means we have the same opportunity as any other Americans. The current wave of resistance to our people is troubling to me, but it will probably be temporary– all immigrant populations have become the targets of cynical, politically-motivated attacks that have eventually subsided. More serious, to me, is the fact that Latinos have the highest rate of school dropouts. Since education is vital to business success today, we must take steps to reverse that trend. In addition, I’d give Latino entrepreneurs the same advice I’d give any entrepreneurs; Learn how to negotiate and how to sell. These are two essential skills in business, but we don’t learn them in our day-to-day lives. And above all, be ready to work long, hard, and smart. -Edward Garza (Owner of V.F. Garza – El Popular)