Alicia Villanueva just landed a contract to sell her tamales at Chase Center, nearly two decades after she immigrated from Mexico and started selling her goods door to door in Berkeley.
Villanueva used to make tamales at night, after cleaning houses or taking care of the disabled during the day. For almost a decade, she made about 100 tamales a day and sold them to neighbors and local job sites.
“I would knock on doors and introduce myself” after picking up one son from preschool and carrying her younger son on her back, she said. “Some of them became huge customers.”
Now, with the help of San Francisco-based kitchen incubator La Cocina — her partner in the contract with Chase Center — and loans from the Opportunity Fund, Villanueva has a 6,000-square-foot Hayward factory that makes about 40,000 tamales a month. Last week, Chase Center asked her to deliver 5,000 tamales to the new arena, a number that could change as the basketball season progresses.