Since opening shop in Ohio City five years ago, La Bamba Tortilleria has done nothing but grow. The Cleveland-based, minority-owned business crafts fresh corn tortillas in what used to be called the Culinary Market Building, located behind the West Side Market. That building is in the process of being converted to the Palace of Fermentation, a multi-faceted brewery and culinary production facility spearheaded by Sam McNulty.
The time has come for La Bamba to find another home, and while market shoppers doubtless will miss the intoxicating aroma of fresh-made corn tortillas, owner Leticia Ortiz is ready to make a move.
“We’ve been growing; the demand is there,” she says. “We don’t have the space here to expand.”
This summer, Ortiz will relocate Cleveland's only fresh tortilla factory to a larger facility on W. 130th Street near Brookpark. The move will allow her to do a number things that she was unable to accomplish at the current location.
Since opening day, La Bamba has been producing top quality, fresh corn tortillas that go almost exclusively to commercial accounts like Mexican restaurants. The only retail spot where consumers can purchase them is Orale in the West Side Market.
"It is like buying bread fresh from the bakery versus the stuff from grocery stores," notes Orale owner Roberto Rodriguez, an early booster of La Bamba.
That will change when the owners add a major retail component to their operation. In addition to selling its products direct to consumer at the new facility, La Bamba will claim space in the coolers at Heinen’s and Giant Eagle, if all goes as planned.
“We want to expand our retail so more people can try our products,” Ortiz says. "There is a big difference in taste and texture between fresh and frozen tortillas.”
The additional production space also will allow La Bamba to add flour tortillas to its product line.
“It’s completely different machinery,” explains Ortiz, adding that they’ll be making them in 6-, 7-, 8-, 10- and 12-inch sizes.
“This is a great local product; we use the highest quality of corn flour and other ingredients. Why not support local if you can. That’s how Cleveland will continue to grow.”
When the new facility opens in July, the company will have grown from three employees to almost triple that. Until that time, you can still pick up their tortillas at the West Side Market.
For 20 years, Douglas Trattner has worked as a full-time freelance writer, editor and author. His work on Michael Symon's "Carnivore," "5 in 5" and “Fix it With Food” have earned him three New York Times Best-Selling Author honors, while his longstanding role as Scene dining editor garnered the award of “Best...