Israel Veliz launched City Tamale when he was 24 years old. “When I moved to New York, I couldn’t find a reliable place to buy a tamale. There are so many tamale vendors on the streets, but I felt for many factors, that they weren’t able to present the tamale in a way that it should be presented.” Within one year of opening, City Tamale became a New York Times food critic’s pick.
“A lot of people connect with us because of who we are. I learned to love food, to respect food. And I’m able to represent who I am, where I come from – and bring good, healthy food to the neighborhood.”
“A lot of people connect with us because of who we are.”
City Tamale is located in Hunts Points, an industrial neighborhood in the Bronx, “where most of our customers are people coming to work,” says Veliz. “In this area, there are mostly big factories, and the auto industry – mechanics, factory workers. It is mostly a Hispanic community here. It’s important that we communicate in two languages, creating a space where everyone is equal.”
When Veliz talks about success, he talks about his team: “I opened City Tamale for one fact: I wanted to provide better opportunities for Latino workers. Success has to do with building a network and team that you can count on when you need help.” For Veliz, success also means growing with his team. “I believe in profit sharing – and while we are hardly breaking even now, I want to share whatever success we have in the future. That means growing together, all of us learning things to do things best.”
“I opened City Tamale for one fact: I wanted to provide better opportunities for Latino workers.”
Veliz admits that success comes with many challenges. For that, he is grateful to be a current participant in the SBA’s Emerging Leaders program, powered by Interise’s StreetWise ‘MBA’. “I was doing a lot of things right, but I didn’t have a lot of guidance and support. The program is pulling it all together. Now, I’m with people that are in my same situation. It’s great to be around people who have a similar growth mindset. We’re working to get over challenges, and become more successful businesses.”
Credit: Jeenah Moon for The New York Times