For a year now, Tortilleria La Bamba, located near Cleveland’s West Side Market, has made fresh corn and flour tortillas, a relief to consumers who want fresh product. In recent years though, two local tortilla companies failed trying to supply the Cleveland market. 

Tortilleria La Bamba, located near Cleveland’s West Side Market has been making corn and flour tortillas for a year now, a relief to those who want them fresh. In recent years though, two local tortilla companies failed trying to supply the Cleveland market. But with each closing, customers were sent scurrying back to suppliers in Detroit and Chicago.

“It was bad," remembers chef Roberto Rodriguez, who runs the Orale! fresh Mexican food stand at the market. “Most of them are made with preservatives. You open a bag and you can smell chemicals before you smell the corn and flour.” Now, he orders tortillas from La Bamba, Champaign, Ill., the night before and receives fresh product. “The difference in the flavor is like the difference between bread from the corner bakery and bread from the supermarket,” he says.

La Bamba has attracted more than 50 restaurant clients, says co-owner Leticia Ortiz. “We used to go out to them,” she says. “Now they're coming to us. We're very thankful.” She and her partners want to triple the business. La Bamba now operates six days a week. The production schedule in the office lists those days by the first letter of their Spanish names. Nothing is listed for "D," which is Domingo, the word for Sunday.

Eric Williams, chef and owner of Momocho in Cleveland and a nominee of the 2011 James Beard Foundation Chefs and Restaurants Awards, is also sold on La Bamba and became so when he tasted the product a few months ago.

“I would love to use them,” he says. “They're local. They're very good, and I think they're a little bit better than what we are currently using.”

Ortiz, who comes from Monterrey, Mexico, says her pace comes from skills from her business classes at Cuyahoga Community College, as well as common sense. “I got a few tips from my mom. She always said that no matter what I do, it should have quality. You can offer a cheap price, but not at the expense of the quality,” she says.

When Ortiz came to Cleveland from the southern tip of Texas to study a few hours, she said she wanted to open a restaurant. But as the U.S. economy weakened, more Mexican restaurants opened and as her native country's tasty, inexpensive fare skyrocketed in popularity, she also saw opportunities as a supplier. Her husband, who once worked in a tortilla factory, supported the idea. They got money from family and friends to start, hired a former employee of Fiesta Guadalajara, Cleveland's last tortilla factory, and today, with business expanding, they are looking to hire more people.