Bay Area tamales businesses stay hopeful despite diminishing holiday sales

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Wednesday, December 23, 2020
Local tamales businesses stay hopeful amid COVID-19 struggles
Tamales are a Christmas tradition for many families, and a labor of love. But this year, sales are down for local businesses, as people are gathering in smaller groups amid COVID-19.

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Tamales are a Christmas tradition for many families, but this year tamales businesses are reporting a decrease in revenue as gatherings have been canceled.

The corn, the husk and the hands that make them - Tamales are a labor of love and family tradition.

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"Everyone has a story about how their mom, dad, abuelita, everybody, would get together before Christmas," said Barbara Haro, La Tapatia Co-owner.

For Haro and her siblings, making tamales for the holidays is part of "La Navidad" or Christmas.

"It's not Christmas without Tamales," said Haro.

Eduardo, Haro's dad opened La Tapatia in South San Francisco with his friend Humberto, who you can still find in the kitchen with his uniform on, cooking the best beef.

"When did you start doing this?"

"We started in 1976. We started making tortillas, chicharones," said Humberto Campos, La Tapatia Founder/Co-Owner.

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A lot has changed since 1976, and 2020 has been one of the hardest years.

Typically, they sell more than 5,000 tamales during the holidays. This year they're inching up to 3,000 tamales.

"I'll say as a whole, we did see a big drop in catering orders because they are for a large group of people," said Haro.

This year, La Tapatia put a sign outside of their business advertising "Masa," or corn flour, for family to make tamales at home.

Mary Jane Shabalin drove from San Bruno. Tamales remind her of her mom.

"Good memories of watching my mom do it! She has a funny way of wrapping them," said Shabalin.

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These traditions are passed on by generations. Behind the scenes at La Tapatia, Fabiola Mendoza is the pro at making tamales.

"Take the spoon.. is this flour or corns? Pure corn. Mixed with lard, salt, baking powder and rice flour. You do a rectangle and get a spoon of pork," said Mendoza.

In the back kitchen, their secret weapon is a custom made "tamales steamer."

"It's special because my father had an idea about maximize when you're steaming the tamales. He decided to have someone make this for them," said Haro.

Haro says her dad is always watching

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"What do you think he would say this year?"

"Ahi mija! I don't know. I think they would be proud of us trying to keep going even though there are obstacles. We are going and doing the best we can," said Haro.

La Tapatia is not receiving anymore Christmas orders at this time.

Several weeks ago we interviewed Sergio Gomez, the owner of "Tamaleria Azteca."

"It's just slow for this year, before it use to be busy. This year is kind of slow," said Sergio Gomez, owner of Tamaleria Azteca.

Every year around Christmas, Gomez would sell more than 5,000 tamales for family gatherings and parties. This year he's seeing an 86% decrease.

"I use to have about 50 orders and this year I have like 20 orders," said Gomez.

La Tamaleria Azteria in the East Bay is still taking in orders.