Rebecca Garcia was born into a large extended family with roots in Monterrey, Mexico. Her grandmother bore 11 children while her grandfather started a restaurant business, serving up barbacoa and other Mexican specialties from a small trailer.
The family migrated north to Nuevo Progreso and eventually to the Harlingen area, along the way building and growing a restaurant business that thrives today. Starting out in trailers much like her grandfather did in Monterrey, Garcia has watched and helped the family business outgrow those trailers to a group of three Blanquita’s Restaurants in Harlingen.
Garcia began working with the family as a youngster from a food trailer behind a car dealership along the expressway just west of Harlingen. “That’s where I started. I remember working in a little trailer there. My mother was always teaching me how to cook. It’s been quite a journey.”
Even though she grew up in a restaurant family, Garcia laid plans for a different career. She explored possible careers in the medial field at college, “until I found out I was a sissy when it comes to blood. So, I came back and got involved with the restaurants and never looked back. It was bound to happen.”
Early on she hatched an idea to create a new business within the family enterprise. Her grandmother’s salsa recipes are customer favorites at the restaurants and Garcia decided to introduce them to a wider audience. “We started selling it to customers in foam cups and then we moved it to jars.”
Garcia got a big break when she snagged an opportunity to pitch the product to H-E-B Central Markets. “They do a lot of Texas-made products, and anything new and good has a chance.” She made the trip to Dallas for a Central Markets Showcase to present the line of salsas. “At the showcase, you get the person one-on-one and sell them.”
As a result, she landed shelf space in 10 Central Markets around the state. “The first order was 3,000 jars and that was quite a handful for me at that time,” Garcia said, adding that Central Markets place new orders about every seven weeks. A more recent customer is a market in San Antonio that “buys gallons of the salsa to use in cooking.”
The salsas remain true to the family recipes, made and packaged during hours the Blanquita’s Restaurant operated by Garcia is closed. After an encouraging start, she has plans to grow the salsa business, but she wants to move carefully to preserve the quality of the product. “I looked into using a co-packer but the style just wouldn’t be the same,” she said. “I will stick to smaller batches and keep the quality.” Garcia recently changed her restaurant’s hours to make more time available in the kitchen to cook salsa.
“I would want to get a small place dedicated to salsa,” she said of future plans. “I don’t want to bite too much. I just want to build profits and grow. It’s a slow process. It takes time and can be tedious but it’s worth it. I have gotten where I am now with my own sweat and my own hard work.”
As Garcia contemplates next steps, another member of the extended family who lives far from the Valley is helping her develop a marketing road map. A cousin operates Bogues Consulting Group, a public relations and events marketing company in Charlotte, NC.
Locally, Blanquita’s Salsa is sold through the family restaurants and more recently online, a venue she knows needs work. “That’s my main focus right now, the website.” The salsa comes in four flavors, the traditional mild salsa that is a staple at the family restaurants, a mild chipotle, a spicy jalapeno, and the hottest of them all, chile de arbol.