Reprint Courtesy of the Arlington Star-Telegram
Updated: Friday, Aug. 13, 1999 at 11:26 CDT
On the rise: Success tastes sweet for Marquez family
Original Article by Amanda Rogers
Star-Telegram Staff Writer
edit by Norma Marquez, Oct 10, 2001
Jose Marquez had built his American dream out of flour, sugar and water. But his was no half-baked idea. The youngest of 14 children, Marquez grew up in Piedras Negras, Mexico, across the border from Eagle Pass. Financial problems forced him to drop out of school in the fifth grade, but when he was 14, his brother Gilberto taught him to make Mexican sweet breads. Forty years later, Marquez owned Marquez Inc., a multi-million dollar corporation, until his untimely death in November of 2000. The company owns three bakeries, including the Marquez Bakery and Tortilla Factory in Arlington, and supplies quite a bit of Texas with flour tortillas. Jose had been saying he's going to retire for the past 10-15 years," his daughter Sally remembers.
"It was joke," said Norma Marquez, Marquez's daughter and the manager of the Arlington bakery. "I never saw him work, you know, hard work. He had been retired at least that long. He would always open bakeries. At first he would be there all the time and then after less than a year he would kind of just hang out, like he did here. "
Things had not always been so easy for Jose Marquez. He and his brother baked in Piedras Negras, then Marquez took his talents to San Antonio, where he made sweet breads for Mi Tierra restaurant for two years. He returned to Piedras Negras and sold doughnuts out of his house, before the owner of the Villareal Bakery in San Angelo sought him out.
He went from making $150 a week selling doughnuts to $60 a week in San Angelo and since he was young he didn't want to stay in Mexico, he wanted to come to this country. But soon Marquez found a way to supplement his income. He worked mornings at the bakery, then came home and made pies. His wife, Lucy, then sold the pies door to door. He would sell bread house to house. His day would start at 4:30 in the morning and he would finish baking at 12:30 or 1, take a shower and load the station wagon and sell until 7:30 that night. He worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week, and sometimes even worked 18 hours a day.
Jose finally asked for a raise after a couple of years and he got more than what he bargained for. His salary was $70 a week and he received an additional $30 a week for his rent. When he asked for another raise, he was told that he should buy the bakery.
He started the business for $400 and in 1972, Marquez bought the business for $16,000.
Jose and Lucy went on to have three daughters, Lucy, Norma and Sally.
As their family expanded so did their business. They bought another bakery in Odessa, and then expanded their bakery in San Angelo. In 1990 the couple divorced and Jose followed his daughter to Arlington, where Norma was pursuing an accounting degree at the University of Texas at Arlington. We never planned to open a bakery here, it just kind of happened," Norma said. "My parents had just gotten divorced and my dad was like `What do I do?' "
So he opened a bakery at 1719 E. Abram St. in 1990. Shortly thereafter, Sally joined Norma and their father in Arlington and she graduated from graduated from Martin High School in 1995.
While on Abram Street, they did not serve any food. They did sell barbacoa, menudo [on the weekends] and tamales and the tortillas but did not do any serving. There was just a counter, no seating.
In 1996 the Marquezes expanded their business yet again and built a larger bakery at 1730 E. Division and decided to add a restaurant.
"Everybody told us y'all should open a restaurant, we love your food. So we ventured into that, but we'd never done that before, so it was kind of a learn as you go because none of us had restaurant experience," Norma said.
It was very hard at first. But the ever-faithful customers were very understanding. In the beginning, they bought tamales but the product was too greasy so they began to produce their own. Last year Norma and her staff manufactured over 25,000 dozen tamales and the demand is ever increasing.
Everything you see at the bakery is produced there except the candy and the Cokes. All of the bread is made from scratch and chemicals have no place in the sumptuous pastries. The Marquez pride is evident in all of the products produced by the bakery and tortillas factory. The red-and-white Marquez label is stamped on thousands of bags of flour tortillas every day. The bakeries produce 10,000 dozen tortillas a day in Arlington and another 4,000 dozen in Odessa. Marquez supplies a lot of local restaurants, including Joe T. Garcia's and El Fenix. They also supply a lot of local groceries.
Marquez is definitely a family affair. Jose Marquez who passed away on November 4, 2000, owned the bakery. Norma Marquez is the manager of the Arlington bakery and due to her fathers passing, also provides oversight to the San Angelo and Odessa bakeries. Sally Venegas, Norma’s younger sister assists with the Arlington bakery and provides assistance wherever her expertise is needed. Norma’s uncle Jesse works for the company in San Angelo, and cousin Jaime is the manager in Odessa. Cousin Jose Marquez works on the production line in Arlington.
"It's like a monster that keeps growing," Norma said. "If it had been up to him [her dad], he would have had bakeries everywhere."
Upon his death, Jose left his daughters Norma and Sally with a multi-million dollar bakery and tortilla empire. He also gave them the business savvy to manage such an insurmountable task. This past year has been difficult losing my father, Norma tearfully states, however, we have had a banner year. I think of my dad daily and am grateful for the business sense he taught me. Sally and I want to be able to continue to leave this business for our children to some day take over, kinda like we have. In actuality Norma had been at the helm of the Arlington bakery since its doors opened in 1990 on Abram street and Sally has helped since her graduation from Martin High School. Everything where the business is concerned has remained the same. Vendors and distributors never talked to Jose much, they recognize Norma and Sally as their points of contact. Norma and Sally were always on the front lines and they are still there.
Twenty- five different kinds of sweet breads fill display cases at the Marquez Bakery. Servers bustle around the restaurant and kitchen, speaking mostly in Spanish. In the back, racks and racks of flour tortillas are piled, waiting to be shipped out. Further back, a huge production line turns out thousands of tortillas.
It's a long way from selling pies from the back of a station wagon.
Marquez Bakery and Tortilla Factory
1730 E. Division
Arlington, Texas 76011