Third generation takes over at Comanche Tortilla

Pecos County People A look at people and businesses in Pecos County

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For the last 72 years, the Comanche Tortilla and Tamale Factory has been serving authentic, home-made products to Fort Stockton.

The factory, originally started in 1947 by Angel Terrazas and Elisa Webster Terrazas, changed locations several times before they purchased the current location on Nelson Street in 1959.

When it started out, tortillas were made on site. Today, they are manufactured elsewhere and sent in since it is a labor-intensive operation.

However, the masa, tamales and salsas – including pico de gallo, red and jalapeno – are still made on site.

Elisa's son and Angel's stepson, J Ben Gallegos, 91, took over after their retirement and was the one who introduced salsas into the mix.

“My dad has always been innovative in his approach,” said his son, J.B.

Most days J Ben is on the phone with customers or ordering merchandise while J.B. continues with more of the hands-on stuff.

When J Ben was 23 years old and fresh out of the Navy, he wanted to be a barber.

After decided it was a hard occupation to enter, he came back to Fort Stockton and started making corn tortillas for his dad.

He remembers selling a dozen of the tortillas for 10 cents a dozen back then.

He bought a van and started selling around town, and then Alpine.

When the Tortilla Factory moved to a location near the old Butz School, he remembers kids stopping by after school and asking for samples.

He has fond memories as he now sees those same kids married and with kids of their own.

In 1952 he married Emma Gonzales. The couple has five sons.

“She did a wonderful job raising those kids,” said J Ben.

As time went by they bought more equipment and started expanding the business.

In 1975 J Ben bought the business from his parents so they could retire.

He remembers serving the public school and making so much food it was hard to keep up.

“The years went by so fast,” he said.

A fun memory that J Ben has is when President Gerald Ford visited San Antonio. He tried to eat a tamale whole and J Ben had to correct him.

“I told him, you're supposed to peel it like a banana,” he said with a laugh.

While he still enjoys working, he is happy to hand the reins over to J.B. so he can work from home.

J Ben said he is excited to be working with his son.

“He has some good ideas,” he said. “It has been an enjoyable experience.”

J.B. officially came back last September to take over the family business, and is focued on the production and business management. He said that he is also interested to see what the factory's role in the community is now and in the future.

“He's there all the time,” J Ben said of his son.

J.B. has been working with business development students out of Sul Ross University and working on upgrading the production process.

“The community is very supportive,” he said.

Being the third generation to take over the facility, he said he isn't sure what the future holds for the factory, but it will continue to be a part of their lives for the foreseeable time.

“We definitely see ourselves staying in the community,” said J.B.

The business serves Pecos, Fort Davis, Marfa and surrounding areas. The products can be found at Lowe's, Alfredo's, Pepitos Cafe and the Steak House.

Every Thursday they host “Tamale Thursday,” which is the only day tamales are sold on site – and they sell out fast. The factory opens at 7 a.m., and keeps going till they run out.

Most people call in the morning and reserve tamales, especially if they want a specific kind.

They serve pork tamales and cheese and jalapeno tamales.

During the holidays, more flavors are added – such as brisket, chicken or turkey.The factory is also opened additional days and hours.

Comanche Tortilla and Tamale Factory is located at 107 Nelson St. They can be reached at (432) 336-3245.

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