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BLOOMFIELD — Over the last four years the Chihuahua Tortilla Factory was open under its former owner, the roadside eatery, meat market and only source in town for tortillas made on site struggled to keep its doors open.

Before former owner Fernando Reyes sold the business, he has said that he was losing more than $15,000 a month, which he attributed to the $16.5 million road-widening construction project on U.S. Highway 64 that dragged on for four years and caused many businesses along the highway to suffer.

Others, like Reyes' business, simply threw in the towel and closed.

But now, the eatery and tortilla factory, located on the highway at 913 W. Broadway Ave., is undergoing a rebirth. Victoria and Danny Cavasos have owned the business since June and said they plan to make a lot more changes than the fresh coat of paint they have applied, the new flat-screen TVs they have hung on the walls and the new equipment they have put in the kitchen.

This summer, the couple pulled down the wood paneling from the walls and splashed it with white paint, then hung select items that give the business more of the feel of a Mexican eatery. The décor includes a poncho in the colors of the Mexican flag over the salsa bar and a sombrero a customer gave them that hangs on the wall in the dining area.

"We want it to look clean," Danny Cavasos said.

Taking the recommendations of customers, they also changed the tortilla recipe, cutting trans fat and genetically modified organisms. That change gives them the ability to sell their tortillas at organic-only retailers like Nature's Oasis in nearby Durango, Colo.

"We changed things. We made it where it's healthier for people," he said. "And our tortillas will last up to 30 days, room temperature or in the fridge."

The business makes its tortillas three times a week in batches of 80 to 90 dozen at a time, he said.

Although the name on the sign outside and on the bags of flour tortillas packaged by the dozen for $3.75 still bear the old name, Cavasos plans to rebrand the business, naming it after the woman who inspired the venture and calling it Victoria's Tortilla Factory.

"I got the place for her because she always wanted her own restaurant," Danny Cavasos said of his wife. "Besides, Victoria's sounds better, don't you think?"

With the help of their daughter, Stephanie Trejo, the Cavasoses hope to build the business back up as community members realize they are open. They would like to expand as soon as business allows.

Those plans include reopening the carnicería, or meat market, that currently stands empty alongside the dining area, and securing parts for the tortilla-making equipment necessary to add wheat and corn tortillas to the menu. Along with standard Mexican fare — taco and enchilada plates, and all-you-can-eat menudo, made with cow stomach, available on weekends — they plan to add posole, a traditional pre-Columbian soup, and picadillo, a hash-like stew with ground beef and tomatoes.

For now, they are touting their low prices, including their breakfast burrito deal — $2.99 apiece or two for $5.

"There's nobody in Farmington that will sell you a breakfast burrito for $5, let alone two burritos for that," he said.

The burritos are light on potatoes, he said, made with eggs, bacon, red or green chile and Mexican sausage, and dashed with pico de gallo.

"Students tell us our burritos are 'tha bomb,' and I say, 'OK. That works for me,'" he said, chuckling. "We do not have pre-made anything. We make them fresh when you show up. Nothing sitting under a warmer."

Cavasos is especially proud of his Juárez, Mexico-born wife's barbacoa, which he said is often misrepresented in restaurants around town as merely shredded beef.

True barbacoa, he said, is prepared with parts from the heads of cattle, such as the cheeks.

"Everybody knows it as shredded beef around here. Oh, no. You have been misled. You have been lied to," he said. "We do authentic. Using cheek meat, one of the most (tender) of meats."

His wife's green salsa is also special, Cavasos said. Prepared with a molcajete, the traditional Mexican version of the mortar and pestle, the salsa is available in a blended and chunky variety, and made fresh twice a day.

The Cavasoses also are continuing the money-transfer service with a bright red rotary phone on the front counter that is primarily used by members of the local Hispanic community to send money to family members in Mexico and abroad. It costs $10 for the service, no matter how much money is sent. That's a better deal than is available elsewhere, Cavasos said.

The couple said their business model is to offer unique and quality food at a good price.

"I've always told everybody, we're not trying to compete with anybody," he said. "We're just trying to give people a choice."

Customers Manuel Mora and Richard Ortiz stopped by for lunch recently, and both ordered the chile relleno and taco plate.

They both liked the meal, noted the affordability and praised the green salsa.

"It was delicious and a good price," Mora said. "The verde salsa was a surprise — really good. I'd come back, definitely."

While this is the couple's first restaurant venture, Danny Cavasos said his wife — and her talent in the kitchen — will make it a success.

"My wife is an excellent cook, and she cooks the traditional way. I support her. I am her right-hand man," he said. "As long as she's happy what she's doing, I'm happy."

More information
What: Victoria's Tortilla Factory
Where: 913 W. Broadway Ave. in Bloomfield
Hours
: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday
More information: Call 505-333-7042

James Fenton is the business editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621 and jfenton@daily-times.com. Follow him @fentondt on Twitter.

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