TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT)– Food is an important part of cultures. For a local family, it’s a way to carry on a grandmother’s memory.
At the corner of Woodruff and Atchison in the Oakland neighborhood, you’ll see a tiny, green house with the words La Siesta etched on the outside of the building. Inside the house turned restaurant, a delicious history where Mama Lupe’s was born.
“My mom was making tortillas in the back for the customer,” Andrew Herrera said, founder of Mama Lupe’s tortillas. “It was actually a Walmart buyer that came to eat. And he loved the product and said, ‘hey, have you thought about branching out and making them?’ I said, ‘Well we really don’t have the equipment and the manpower.’ And he says, ‘Well, when you find it. Call me.'”
It was the call that changed Herrera’s life.
“We started making them by hand,” Herrea said. “But we didn’t realize how tremendous the workload was going to be.”
He jumped right in making Mama Lupe’s a household name. Expanding the brand to stores across the city, then across Kansas. Herrera traveled on his own at first while his family helped back home. Then one day, he came across a little city.
“One of the towns that we passed through was Moundridge,” Herrera said.
In 1994, he met a man named Robert who had tortilla chips and a plant in Moundridge. So they partnered together. Then one year later, Herrera sold Mama Lupe’s to Robert, keeping the roots in Kansas.
But wait, who is Mama Lupe? She’s Herrera’s grandmother.
“She had no idea,” Herrera said. “She had no idea that her name was being used.”
The name came from a question asked by a Washburn marketing staff member he was working with when the brand was getting started.
“‘What was your grandmother’s name?’ I said, ‘Mama Lupe.’ She said, ‘there it is. That’s it. You got it. We’re done here.'”
For more than 24 years, Mama Lupe’s has been made in Kansas, evolving and following trends to still keep up with the demand. With more than just tortillas now. Chip, salsa and even different kinds of tortillas fill the shelves.
What’s also changed the man behind the brand, Juan Guardiola.
“For the last, probably, two years, we’ve been cleaning our labels,” Guardiola said. “Which means making the product healthier for our consumers, for our customers. And now we’re trending into low carbs.”
Things have changed since the business started. Mama Lupe has now passed, as well as Andrew’s mom who operated La Siesta. The restaurant, also now closed.
But one thing that’s still around, Mama Lupe’s memory and legacy in every packaging.
“I still feel connected,” Herrera said. “I’m just glad it’s still there.”
The Mama Lupe’s team is also preparing for another expansion of the building, and possibly opening a second factory in another state.