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July 2, 2013 > Que pasa masa?

Que pasa masa?

Mexico Tortilla Factory

It all began in 1970 when Rogelio Collazo opened the doors of Mexico Tortilla Factory in Newark. The business was the culmination of a dream that brought him and his bride, Ercilia, from Sabinas Hidalgo, in the state of Nuevo Leon Mexico to the United States in 1955 with a single suitcase of belongings and a vision for a bright future. Rogelio traveled from the fields of Utah to Los Angeles where he worked as a machinist, and finally settled in the Bay Area working for Fisher Body and General Motors.

Ercilia's brother, who had worked in a tortilla factory near Los Angeles, moved to San Leandro to start his own factory and Rogelio and Ercilia helped, learning about the business. The entrepreneurial dream of owning his own business became a reality as Rogelio worked double shifts as machinist and tortilla maker. From those modest beginnings, a Collazo tradition began that continues to this day. An operation that started with an inventory of 100 pounds of corn expanded to a business using many tons of corn each week.

Carefully selected kernels of corn (maiz), chosen for quality and consistency, are at the core of the family business that supplies both wholesale and retail customers. All have come to expect only the best fresh tortillas, a staple of Mexican cuisine. In the front part of the building, a retail store is filled with a wide variety of merchandise and specialty food items, dining booths and a kitchen where homemade tamales, burritos and a plethora of hot Mexican dishes are prepared for eating in or takeout customers.

Rogelio's legacy still reigns as daughters Maria "Sucy", Elsie and Gloria manage operations - with help from Sucy's husband Vicente and son Vicente, Jr. - continue Mexico Tortilla Factory's role as, not only a place of good food, but community fellowship as well. Wait around long enough and just about everyone from the Bay Area "neighborhood" will show up. A mixture of languages can be heard, but great food and good values need no translation.

As evening falls, the back rooms of the Tortilla Factory becomes busy, ovens are heating up and huge vats of corn kernels, mixed with water and lime are cooking. Masa dough for tamales is one result while the rest of the dough is rolled and baked, then transformed into tortillas of different sizes, shapes and thickness - thousands of them - for chips, taco shells and tostadas. Sucy proudly says, "We use California white corn that we cook and grind fresh; many other tortilla factories use rehydrated corn meal. The flavor is in the freshly ground corn cooked with processed lime ("cal"), a unique process. Others use chemical preservatives and it is not the same."

The choreography of the operation is smooth and astoundingly fast as tortillas travel along conveyor belts to their final destination in packages proudly marked "Mexico Tortilla Factory." It is obvious that those working to produce the tortillas are well practiced in this art. Although Rogelio passed away in 2009, his spirit is present and watching with a proud smile.

Mexico Tortilla Factory has moved only once, in 1988, since its inception down the street at 7114 Dairy Avenue, but nothing else has changed, especially use of natural, fresh ingredients. In fact, Rogelio is so revered in the industry that he was inducted into the Tortilla Industry Association's Hall of Fame in 2010.

Some consumers find Mexico Tortilla Factory tortillas in a local grocery store or used in their favorite Mexican food selection at restaurants or food trucks, but lucky Tri-City residents also have the opportunity buy them at the source. Customers can order a tamale, taco, burrito, enchilada or anything else from the extensive menu, and settle into a booth inside or a table just outside in Magnolia Plaza, knowing that all ingredients, including the masa, is as fresh as it gets.

Taking a bit of Mexico Tortilla Factory home is easy to do. Shelves of produce, grocery items and specialty products fill the deli as well as candies, Mexican sodas, fresh homemade rice, beans, cheese, salsa, guacamole, and meats available by the pound.

There is something very special about the Mexico Tortilla Factory, not just great food. Welcome and warmth radiate from everyone - owners, employees and customers - and from every corner of the building. Visit Mexico Tortilla Factory to experience Rogelio's bequest to his family, friends and neighbors. The Collazo family is waiting to greet you and share their passion for fresh, quality food and friendly service.

Once visited, it is nearly impossible to resist returning and becoming part of the Mexico Tortilla Factory family. Sucy sums it up, "If you want to taste the best tortillas and tamales, you need to visit the Mexico Tortilla Factory. We are an icon of Old Town Newark, in business here for 43 years!"

Mexico Tortilla Factory
7015 Thornton Ave., Newark
(510) 792-9909

Mon - Fri: 8 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Saturday: 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Sunday: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

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