My journey as an entrepreneur
By Lydia Gutierrez
Special to the Michigan Citizen
I grew up a Detroiter. I walked everyday to Western High School with my brother, Hector, and
we enjoyed Clark Park in the winter, ice-skating and drinking hot chocolate.
Summer was just as fun: playing tennis, watching my brothers shooting hoops, running the perimeter of the park trying to stay in shape. My parents, Daniel and Lydia Bermudez, were pastors of the local Spanish-speaking church, and by their example I learned at an early age to be a servant of the community. My mother worked tirelessly at CHASS Clinic, the local health care agency, which treats most of Southwest Detroit and where Hispanic residents feel most comfortable because they cater and understand the Hispanic culture. Through my parents, I learned hard work and the importance of responsibility.
Over 20 years ago, I met my late husband, Richard Gutierrez, a true and pure entrepreneur.
He learned from his parents; his father Fernando was an entrepreneur too — the owner of La Michoacána tortilla factory (now in existence more than 75 years) and Mexican Village Restaurant, both located on Bagley in Detroit. Richard knew everything there was to know about tortillas and tortilla equipment; he worked in the tortilla industry all his life.
In 1994, Richard and I started Hacienda Mexican Foods, a tortilla manufacturing business right on Vernor in Detroit. We sold tortillas and would enhance each sale by selling a variety of Mexican products like dry chilies, Mexican chorizo and cheese. We worked hard every day and even when we didn’t have a single customer we still kept the doors open. It was faith, tenacity and our work ethic that kept our doors open.
In our early years, Richard kept the machines going and I would sell. I was also the delivery driver and when customers would ask if the sales girl was married I would tell them, “no, she’s not married” — anything to make and keep the sale.
We come from very humble beginnings and shopped at the Village Boutique — a fancy name for
the local Salvation Army. Richard, the true and pure entrepreneur, mentored me and patiently taught me everything there is to know about this business. I never saw myself as an entrepreneur, but Richard saw more in me than what I saw in myself.
Our business began to develop and grow as the country’s face began to change along with the food it eats. Mexican food is fun, nutritious and inexpensive — minus the margaritas, of course.
Richard and I were in this niche business and we took full advantage of our position. Business
began to grow with customers such as Stouffer foods and McDonald’s. We began producing 20 hours a day out of that little building on Vernor. We knew we had to expand to another location.
Unfortunately, Richard had been diagnosed with Hepatitis C and lost the battle in 2005 at the age 52. Three weeks after his passing, I returned to the business wondering what I would do without him. Richard’s spirit was always strong; returning to work, I felt it alive in the business.
I decided to continue in his legacy and moved part of our business into a 33,000 sq. foot building in Detroit My commitment is to continue to grow right here in the “D.” We listen to our customers and because of them our product mix has changed to include, taco shells, tostadas and multi-color tortilla chips; we are always working to expand our offerings.
It was those very humble beginnings and strong Detroit roots that have carried me to where we are today: a multi-million dollar tortilla business growing right here in the heart of Mexicantown Detroit. Celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month September 15-October 15, 2003, and while you’re at it pick up a bag of Hacienda tortilla chips — true to its culture and tradition made fresh right in your own backyard, the city we all love, Detroit. Adelante!!