Anita’s Tortilleria Success Story

Anita’s Tortilleria is a prime example of a thriving small business that brings joy to our South Texas familia and the children we serve. The delicious comida they provide goes a long way in supporting the youth throughout our South Texas programs.

Anita’s Tortilleria has been a staple of the community since 1952. Regarded as the oldest Tortilleria in the town with 72 years of history, it continues to serve many loyal customers in Brownsville and beyond. As they supply tortillas and tacos to facilities in the area, they offer a sense of familiarity and a point of connection to those who come through the programs.

Owner of Anita’s Tortilleria, Avraham “Avi” Schwarcz, was born in Israel and immigrated to the United States in 1975. Since he was a child, he has had a strong interest in food. Avi recalls, “I was always glued to my mom and she was a very good cook, a very good baker, and I was always in the kitchen next to her. I wasn’t interested in going out cutting grass. I was more interested in making eggs, that was my thing.”

“I was always glued to my mom and she was a very good cook, a very good baker, and I was always in the kitchen next to her. I wasn’t interested in going out cutting grass. I was more interested in making eggs, that was my thing.”

However, it would be a long time until he was professionally involved with a restaurant. Before entering the restaurant business, Avi worked in hotels for 20 years, including famous hotels such as The Plaza in New York City, Hilton Tel Aviv, and Ramses Hilton in Cairo among other hotels. His passion for hospitality and innovation continued as he made a major career transition to becoming a restaurant owner.

While in New York running a small business in 2009, his wife was in Brownsville and came across the Tortilleria, which was up for sale. He recalls their conversation about the discovery. After she pitched him the idea of buying it, he said, “Whoa, slow down. I don’t speak Spanish. I don’t know anything about [the] machines and [how to make] tortillas and I don’t like Mexican food.” In response, she offered to buy the building on her own and run the Tortilleria with one of her friends. He gave into the idea, saying, “I went down, spoke with the owner, and we made a great deal. And it was a deal I couldn’t walk away from, so we bought the business.”

Since then, Avi has grown to love the work he does through Anita’s Tortilleria. Although Avi and his wife have gone through hard times financially with their business endeavors over the years, he has never allowed it to affect the quality of their work.

He says, “We never compromised on food quality, even if we made less money. For example, we didn’t go [for] cheaper corn and we didn’t go for cheaper beef. We stayed with the same vendors with the same quality and it was painful [at times].”

As a result, customers stayed loyal and continue to go to Anita’s in the 15 years following their ownership. Avi is also proud of his employees, prioritizing their care and ensuring their satisfaction with their work. He says, “We respect the workers, we take good care of them. We make sure they’re happy. I keep telling them, if you’re not happy making tortillas or if you’re not happy making tamales, it’s not going to come out good. Even if you follow the recipe, it doesn’t matter. You have to be passionate. That’s the secret ingredient.”

Their passion is fueled by the feeling they give their customers. From their loyal patronage to the kids, youth, and staff at Southwest Key, they take pride in the work they do. Avi explains, “Our tortillas are made the old-fashioned way, meaning when you bite into my tortilla, you are biting into hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands of years of tradition. You’re not biting into a corn or flour tortilla that somebody mixes with water and throws it together.”

This drive to serve others is reflected in Anita’s lortilleria. Avi sees the unique value in his service to Southwest Key. He explains his mindset, saying,

“When these kiddos are coming across the United States, they’re scared. They don’t know what to expect. They’re in this unknown program, but whenever they bite into a tortilla, l brings them home.’

His empathetic approach informs their collaboration and generosity as a diverse supplier to Southwest Key.

The legacy that Avi will leave behind someday is often on his mind. He sees the partnership that Anita’s and Southwest Key share provides him the privilege to be a change-maker in Brownsville and the broader world. Avi says, “If something actually happened and I died tomorrow, I want people to know that I was part of the community. I was a community leader. I was very much involved.”