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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Rising rents and Tortilla Wars force Echo Park business to move on

Hernandez, right, stands by corn as it is cooled down before grinding

Omar Ahmed Hernandez grew up making tortillas. His family founded the Santa Fe Tortilleria 17 years ago in a narrow Sunset Boulevard storefront in Echo Park. After the family sold off the business, Hernandez continued to work off an on at Santa Fe as it expanded into a former fish market on nearby Logan Street, churning out freshly-made tortillas to stores and restaurants across Los Angeles.  But later this month, Hernandez, who now serves as manager, will oversee the closure of the Echo Park tortilleria.  Santa Fe will remain in business but plans to join forces with a Long Beach tortilleria that operates a much larger facility. Meanwhile, Senor Fish, the fish taco and Mexican restaurant that will open in the adjacent Pescado Mojado storefront,  plans to eventually expand into the Santa Fe space.

Hernandez said Santa Fe was already paying $4,000 a month in rent, a figure which has kept climbing. Meanwhile, the cost of corn has risen about 50% in recent months while Santa Fe has struggled to compete with much larger tortilla markers, Hernandez said.  Santa Fe has lost customers and dropped distribution routes. In fact, Santa Fe now sells more pork rinds and other items than tortillas from its Echo Park outlet.  The move to Long Beach will help lower costs and help Santa Fe survive  an industry-wide shake out that Hernandez and others have described as the  “Tortilla Wars.”

“It was a matter of time – we had to move,” Hernandez said last week. “The Tortilla Wars …  will only get worse.”

Hernandez said Santa Fe prides itself on making corn tortillas with no additives. The firm had also recently starting making tortillas from organic corn. But the firm’s high costs put it at a disadvantage against its much larger competitors, some of them backed by major corporations.   Moving to the Long Beach tortilleria, which has five times the space as Santa Fe’s Echo Park building, provides more opportunities for money-saving automation. For example, Hernandez said Santa Fe currently counts tortillas by hand before they are packaged. That will be done by a machine in Long Beach.

Santa Fe  is now looking for nearby outlets to sell its Long Beach-made tortillas once it closes the Echo Park location by the middle of the month. “I definitely want to keep distribution here,” Hernandez said.

Related Post:

  • Dear Eastsider: In search of tortilleria alternatives. The Eastsider

 



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  1. Too bad! there’s nothing like fresh tortillas!

  2. Bummer! Would always stop by there to pick up some tortillas when I would go visit family in Northern Cali – they are so good!

  3. [blames hipsters for the rising price of corn]

  4. I have to say, I’m very excited about Senor Fish!

  5. Those crazy hipster farmers out in Iowa are trying to gentrify Echo Park by selling all their corn to beef farmers and ethanol refineries.

  6. Oh I am so sorry to see them go! Best wishes.

  7. the best tortilla chips in the neighborhood, waah!

  8. Before that area turned trendy, sunset was once filled with bakeries and tortilla shops. Kinda sad to see them all gone.

  9. Excellent tortillas at a really cheap cost. I like this place and will be sad to see it go. Hopefully, Senior Fish will make up for it.

  10. it happens , deal with it.

    this will be a major upgrade from that awful pescado place.

  11. They will be missed!!! They were definitely a highlight in the neighborhood. Best tortillas and chips. ever.

  12. There’s a tortilleria at 2135 Cypress Avenue in Cypress area..corner of Cazador.
    The building used to be a dentist’s place, that’s what still shows on google maps. I drive by it on my way to Out of the Closet (San Fernando Rd–great place for very low priced paperback books and other stuff, nice people too) and Super King market…
    I’ve thought about stopping by but in this heat, stopping anywhere (going anywhere?) is not on the agenda.
    Sorry I can’t provide a name, but they’ve painted up the walls nicely and looks like a place you’d want to check out (which I will).

  13. Wouldnt it make sense for Senor Fish to use Santa Fe Tortillas in their food? Work out some sort of deal with them? Nothing is better than fresh homemade CORN tortillas! If they were using all this organic corn too its an even sweeter deal for the food snobs right? Its just so sad…..

  14. @ corner soul
    They don’t grow sweet corn in Iowa. The corn grown there is field corn, i.e. feed corn.

  15. @carol: True, but many think demand for ethanol/feed has contributed to price spikes in the entire global corn market. Anyway, I was just poking fun at some of the recent comments on here that oversimplify local issues… it was a dumb joke and it’s unfortunate Santa Fe isn’t able to relocate nearby. I’ll have to pick up some tortillas before they move to Long Beach.

  16. “It happens deal with it?” WOW wait until your life falls apart!

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