Ann Arbor Tortilla Factory poised to increase production as chips grow in popularity
Janet Miller | For AnnArbor.com
Owners Guadalupe and Andrea Quetglas opened their south Ann Arbor business in 2007.Â In the past two years, sales at the Ann Arbor Tortilla Factory have tripled, the number of employees has doubled, the number of outlets where they are sold has expanded and two new flavors have been introduced.
Now, there is no room to grow.
Hemmed in by their small facility, the Quetglas sisters operate at capacity inside their 4,000-square foot office and production facility on Ellsworth Road near Carpenter Road.
In the next two or three months, they want to purchase additional equipment and expand into 1,500 to 2,000 square feet of adjacent space at the Ellsworth Commerce Park, a move that would allow them to double current capacity. The move would allow them to purchase a second industrial size kettle for cooking the corn used to make the tortillas. But even a used kettle costs $40,000, Guadalupe said.
That all takes capital.
With tight credit, they are looking to the Small Business Administration for a loan, Guadalupe said. They are also open to the idea of an investor, although they haven’t explored that route.
“Money is really tight,” Guadalupe said. “It’s like being on a merry-go-round. We need to be creative.”
As they look for ways to grow, they will also launch a packaging makeover in a couple of months. They’ll keep their cellophane bag, but now the bags will be printed with a larger and more colorful logo and more information about the history of the company.
Until now, they’re used blank packaging and affixed two or three round stickers on each bag, a labor-intensive task. They are also in the process of hiring.
The thick and salty tortilla chips - now available in regular, lime, chili lime and garlic - have an almost cult-like following.
A Boston couple headed to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for vacation bought a bag of the chips from the Ann Arbor Whole Foods Market and returned the next year to buy two cases (24 bags) directly from the production facility. Another couple purchased eight cases of their 8-ounce bags decorated with ribbons to give away as wedding favors.
They are carried at about 60 locations around Michigan, from Saugatuck to Livonia and include a number of Ann Arbor restaurants, such as the Jolly Pumpkin, Red Hawk and Ann Arbor Brewing Company. They are sold at all Michigan Whole Foods, all Plum Markets, the People’s Food Coop, Arbor Farms Market and other locations.
Distribution has expanded to western Michigan, Lansing and suburban Detroit. Customers come to the factory to buy the chips direct by the case during the holidays, Andrea said, and they are part of the Zingerman’s holiday gift baskets.
The expansion into new markets has been through word of mouth. They have no sales staff. One customer from Lansing would take orders for the chips from friends and family and drive to Ann Arbor to pick up a supply. Eventually, Lansing customers convinced the Foods for Living store to stock the chips.
The Quetglas sisters see the potential of doubling current sales if they could expand and add a sales department. They also see expanding their fresh salsa production, which is in limited distribution. Ann Arbor Tortilla Factory chips are in an Ann Arbor Kroger store, and the chance to expand into the entire Kroger chain would be a coup, they said. An expansion would also allow them to move into the Chicago market through Whole Foods and other stores. “Once we have the extra equipment, we can use our time getting more accounts,” Guadalupe said.
Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 11:55 a.m.
I love the lime flavor. I get mine at the Ypsi Food Co-op. The garlic will about knock you over - I recommend getting a taste before buying if you can!
Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 11:52 a.m.
I love their chips!
Sun, Sep 12, 2010 : 9:51 a.m.
I never knew they existed, yet now I want some. I love tortilla chips. And, locally made? That's even better. Whole Foods, eh? I know where I'm going today.
Sun, Sep 12, 2010 : 9:33 a.m.
Great news! Congratulations, ladies!
Sat, Sep 11, 2010 : 5:57 p.m.
You can find their outstanding chips at Plum Market and WF. Congratulations Ann Arbor Tortilla Factory on a job well done and continued expansion.
Sat, Sep 11, 2010 : 5:35 p.m.
Ann Arbor Tortilla Chips ROCK! and thanks to Morgan and York who were the first to carry these awesome chips as no-one else would take the chance! Morgan and York also stock their delicious salsa.
Sat, Sep 11, 2010 : 2:47 p.m.
I'm on a campaign to buy Michigan products so I'm a little disconcerted that you mention Whole Foods, a national chain, but not Hillers. They have prominently displayed the Tortilla factory chips on the end cap for weeks. I love them (the chips) and the fact that Hillers promotes many Michigan products with their little made in Michigan signs.
Sat, Sep 11, 2010 : 1:48 p.m.
I am going to have to go find these....my curiosity is raised! Congratulations on a successful business adventure. I'm sure there will be someone stepping up to the plate to help!
Sat, Sep 11, 2010 : 12:48 p.m.
I wish I had the extra funds,as I would love to invest in there business. Good luck on you expansion
Sat, Sep 11, 2010 : 11:32 a.m.
Those are some good chips.
Sat, Sep 11, 2010 : 11:25 a.m.
Hooray!! These chips are soooo tasty!! These ladies have got it going on!!! Oh and hearing their story is so touching, wish I knew some investors!
Sat, Sep 11, 2010 : 11:05 a.m.
Definitely the best tortilla chips around! I'm glad to see they are growing. I hope that they can continue to be successful.
Sat, Sep 11, 2010 : 10:33 a.m.
Yum, and I also stumbled across the salsa at Knight's. It has radishes in it! Sounds weird, but very addictive (especially with the lime chips). I had the garlic chips once and while they were tasty... whew! Holy garlic! :)
Sat, Sep 11, 2010 : 9:54 a.m.
This makes me want to try the chips!
Sat, Sep 11, 2010 : 9:42 a.m.
The Ann Arbor Tortilla Factory is located at 3729 Trade Center Dr., north off of E. Ellsworth Road, about a half-mile east of Platt Road. Their Web site lists all of the locations where their products are sold.
Sat, Sep 11, 2010 : 9:11 a.m.
That's great to hear, they make some damn great chips! And cook1888, you can find their excellent salsa at Sparrow Market in Kerrytown also!
Ann Arbor mom
Sat, Sep 11, 2010 : 8:46 a.m.
I love these chips and have been curious about the manufacturer. Questions answered! Congrats to these 2 women on their success!
Sat, Sep 11, 2010 : 8:41 a.m.
Now these are the stories I enjoy reading about! Just where is this Ellsworth Commerce Park located? Is it is the City of Ann Arbor or Pittsfield or Ypsilanti's borders?
Sat, Sep 11, 2010 : 8:18 a.m.
What a great story! Congratulations to Guadalupe and Andrea on their success and BEST CHIPS EVER. And, non-GMO corn, love that.
Sat, Sep 11, 2010 : 7:40 a.m.
Best chips EVER!!!!! Congratulations!
Sat, Sep 11, 2010 : 7:13 a.m.
Nice to see an enterprising idea take off. I remember first trying the chips three years ago and have been addicted ever since. Love their fresh tortillas too! I hope they can find the capital to expand but don't lose that local cult status!
Sat, Sep 11, 2010 : 6:39 a.m.
They also make an outstanding fresh salsa. The only place I can find it anymore is Knight's market.
Sat, Sep 11, 2010 : 5:59 a.m.
Congrats to the Quetglas sisters. I too love their chips and tortillas and their hard work deserves success. 'michiganpoorboy' I see your userid refers to your poor taste. Your comment is unfounded and rude.
Sat, Sep 11, 2010 : 5:20 a.m.
This is the American Dream. This is the reason why ancestors from both sides of my family during the 18th and 19th centuries, uprooted from their homelands and came to live here. Congratulations, Guadalupe and Andrea