Tortilleria struggles to keep up with declining sales during COVID-19 pandemic

Owner of El Grano de Oro tried to apply for government grants but was unsuccessful

Tortilleria El Grano de Oro

Freshly-made tortillas, still warm to the touch, line a shelf at Tortilleria El Grano de Oro. Photo by Vicky Pineda/City Times Media


To read this story in Spanish, click here.

The smell of freshly made corn tortillas was in the air of Tortilleria El Grano de Oro, a family-owned business on Seventh Street and Highland Avenue that has been open for 33 years.

On the shelves were house-made chips, tostadas, chicharrones and sopes. In the fridge, on the left side of the store, you can find milk, eggs, salsas, sodas and cheese.

Above the register, a sign featured the prices for tortillas sold by the pound. Most of what the store makes and sells is made of corn.

Read Johana N.‘s review of El Grano De Oro on Yelp

Heriberto Gerardo Gutierrez, owner of the tortilleria, has seen a decrease in sales since the pandemic started.

The clientele just went down, but not enough to say I was closing, I wouldn’t want to say that, when there was enough sales to continue moving forward.” Gutierrez said.

The lack of customers did force Gutierrez to change his hours of operation. Instead of closing at 6:30 in the evening, he now closes at 5 p.m.

In interviews with City Times Media, numerous local officials said they had gone to local businesses offering help. According to Gutierrez, nobody showed up to his business. 

“I had no schooling, I don’t know how to use the computer and they want everything by email and that affects me,” Gutierrez said.

His son helped him fill out a form for a small business loan and got approved, but he later received a notification saying that he wasn’t approved and didn’t try anymore.

Gutierrez said his business will continue to stay open as long as they have sales.

“As long as God gives me strength and helps me, we will continue to be here,” Gutierrez said. “It’s the time where we must all help each other.”

This story is part of The Highland Avenue Project and the Democracy and the Informed Citizen Emerging Journalist Fellowship program.