La Milpa Mexican Foods, Inc. was established in 1998 by Andres Gonzalez who had some experience making corn tortillas. A native of Jalisco Mexico, Andres grew-up eating corn tortillas and was later joined by Luis Corral. Luis was born in Durango Mexico and was experienced at making flour tortillas. La Milpa Mexican Foods was formed when the two decided to join forces and manufacture both kinds of Tortillas.
|Now La Milpa Mexican Foods, Inc. is one of the largest tortilla manufacturers and distributors in Oregon. Our tortillas are distributed throughout Oregon, and parts of Washington. We are experts at making tortillas for restaurants and taquerias. Possessing a great variety of flours and corn tortillas, we are able to accommodate any restaurant or store. You are always welcome to visit our factory and pick-up your order right out of the oven.|
|THE OREGONIAN - JULY 5, 2007...
When Luis Corral was 17 years old, he left his home in the pine-covered mountains of central Mexico for better pay in California.
"We came with nothing," he remembers. "Just dreams." Those dreams fueled a rigorous work ethic, propelling Corral from a day laborer job in Los Angeles to district manager of La Carreta, a Portland-area Mexican restaurant chain.
In 1999, he invested everthing he had into a relatives fledgling tortilla-making business, La Milpa Mexican Foods, Inc. For years , he and his partner, Andres Gonzales, clocked in 15, sometimes 20 hours a day.
"When we started we were the salesmen, the owners, the secretary and the cook," Corral, 41, said with a laugh. "All my lifes been like that, working as many hours as I could."
Today, the fruits of Corral's labors are all around him - bagged, labeled and boxed - ready to be trucked from La Milpa's Sandy factory to the more than 200 restaurants and stores it supplies with a tortilla fix.
La Milpa is the biggest tortilla factory in the Portland area, producing more than 1.5 million tortillas each week. Last year, the business had sales of $1 million, with a net profit of about $80,000, Corral said.
The owners would have taken home more, he said, but they needed to invest in more machines to keep up with demand.
Corral and Gonzales, his wife's uncle, are in the process of renting extra factory space. "We've been getting bigger, that's why we need a bigger store," said Corral, who became a U.S. citizen more than a decade ago.
He wants to maintain the business' growth rate at about 20 percent a year.
Corral said his business has been successful, in part, because Mexican food has become more mainstream. But he also credits the recipe, which has evolved over the years.
With the help of a three-pronged system of evaluation, the business is constantly adapting its cooking formula to make the most delicious, freshest product.
"You feel the tortillas and smell it and taste it," Corral said. "You've got to be changing all the time."
Tortillas are made from the simplest ingredients. But it takes a whole lot of flour, water, shortening and equipment to produce up to 400,000 corn and flour tortillas a day, the amount La Milpa churns out on a typical Wednesday.
Stepping into La Milp's warehouse is like getting lost in a cornfield maze, with 30-foot long tortilla-making machines and big wrought iron mixers chugging on the factory floor. Dozens of stacked bags of flour emit a sweet smell.
La Milpa goes through about 1,000 50-pound bags of flour each week. Its 10 employees mix the wheat and corn flour into a past called "masa," then ball it up and place it on the assembly lines. The machines squash the masa into round flats, then fry them and cool them.
The tortillas are bagged then trucked to stores and restaurants across Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana.
Corral said he likes to accompany the delivery trucks heading toward eastern Oregon because it reminds him of his hometown in Mexico.
After nine years of six or seven-day work weeks, Corral and Gonzales have started taking weekends off. And with the expansion, they will finally have a proper office instead of the crowded converted closet that's served as the factory's command center.
"At the beginning it was hard, there was no money coming into our pockets," Corral said. "Now we keep selling more and more, we must be doing something right."