Food Service & Agriculture, Retail, and Small Business & Startups

Family grows sausage-making operation from scratch

Chorizo Selecto owners eye expansion into big chains after success in Mexican supermarkets and restaurants

November 23, 2018
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Chorizo
The Chorizo crew includes, from left, co-owner Sostenes Garcia; his sister and employee, Rosa Elena Romero; his wife and co-owner, Elizabeth Garcia; and his daughter and employee, Adilene Garcia. Courtesy Chorizo Selecto

When Sostenes and Elizabeth Garcia got married three decades ago in Mexico, they promised each other they would someday start a family business.

Sostenes Garcia’s father owned a butcher shop, and Elizabeth Garcia’s father sold him beef. Their son and daughter’s paths crossed as they worked in the family businesses in 1986. In 1989, the pair tied the knot.

Twenty-nine years and four kids later, the Garcias have made their goal a reality through their family sausage-making business, Chorizo Selecto, at 439 Washington Ave. in Holland.

The Garcias and Sostenes Garcia’s sister, Rosa Elena Romero, spoke to the Business Journal with translation assistance from Raul Alvarez, of the GTSD Group.

Founded in 2005, Chorizo Selecto operated under cottage law for the first three or four years, securing its United States Department of Agriculture permit to operate as a full-blown business in 2008 or 2009. They began selling wholesale soon after.

About 14 Mexican grocery stores and chains in West Michigan carry Chorizo Selecto products, as well as restaurants Luna Grand Rapids, Tacos El Cuñado locations and Holland-based The Biscuit.

The Garcias aim to get their product in SpartanNash and Meijer stores as soon as they can. They want Chorizo Selecto to be a household name recognized statewide, they said.

The business, operated by four or five family members depending on the day, produces about three 160-pound batches of chorizo per night after Elizabeth Garcia finishes her shift at Haworth, where she works full time.

Chorizo is made from pork, red pepper, black pepper, garlic and other spices. It is often used on tacos; “papas con chorizo,” i.e., chorizo with potatoes; breakfast burritos; in scrambles; or in salsas.

The Garcias buy pork imported from Indiana by Holland-based Filmore Beef Co. They purchase “sterilized” spices from Chicago, Elizabeth Garcia said.

Romero helps with the sausage making, along with the Garcias’ high school-age daughter and college-graduate son as they are able.

A Filmore Beef Co. driver delivers the meat early in the morning, and Sostenes Garcia refrigerates it until the family convenes for processing time at 4 p.m.

“We start by cutting the meat, then grinding it and mixing it in the mixer with the spices and red pepper,” Elizabeth Garcia said. When it’s processed, they put the meat into casings and it is then packaged for sale.

A 12-ounce package retails for $3.49 and comes in spicy and nonspicy varieties. They sell 5-pound bulk packages to restaurants.

The Garcias are proud of the fact they make their sausage without preservatives, from “the best cuts” of pork, Elizabeth Garcia said. They said it’s common for many chorizo makers to use poor-quality meat, which makes the chorizo greasy and less flavorful.

“Good chorizo would (retain its mass) when you put it in the pan to cook, and so would the color and the flavor,” Elizabeth Garcia said. “It depends on how fresh your spices are and what kind of cuts you use for your chorizo.”

Owning a business has its challenges — they had to take out a second mortgage on their house and pour Elizabeth Garcia’s Haworth earnings into the business — but the Garcias said they wouldn’t trade what they have built for the world.

“It allows us to work together, make a living and support our kids,” Elizabeth Garcia said. “It was hard at the beginning. … Now, I’m getting back what I invested.”

Sostenes Garcia said he is glad to be able to work long hours doing something he loves — keeping his family tradition of working in the food industry alive.

Elizabeth Garcia said a rewarding outcome for her is seeing their 7-year-old daughter develop a passion for entrepreneurship.

“I ask her what she wants to be, and she says, ‘I’m going to have my own business and make my own brand of something.’ I was so surprised she’s already thinking she wants to have a business,” Elizabeth Garcia said.

The Garcias and Romero agree if you start a family business, it’s important to be 100 percent sure you are close-knit enough to deal with being together every day — as they are. It’s also important to separate business and family issues and think of your family member as a co-worker while on the job.  

As the business grows, the Garcias’ next steps are to buy more equipment and hire more people so they can scale the business.

Elizabeth Garcia said they would also like to buy their own facility, still in Holland, in the not-too-distant future.

Chorizo Selecto locations

  • Supermercado Rodriguez (all locations)

  • Supermercado Mexico (all locations)

  • Supermercado National No. 1 and No. 2

  • Supermercado El Especial

  • La Placita

  • Supermercado Amaros

  • Supermercado Sin Fronteras

  • Supermercado Bedolla’s

  • Supermercado Michoacan

  • Supermercado La Victoria

  • Supermercado Santa Fe

  • El Supermercado Hartford

  • Garcia’s Supermarket

  • Supermercado Villalobos

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