Humberto Raygoza sells six varieties of chorizo at The Chori-Man.
Raygoza opened his first brick-and-mortar shop in San Pedro, a tight-knit community that’s part of the city of Los Angeles.
The shop has about 800 sq. ft. of kitchen space with a walk-up service counter. He features his cooked chorizo sandwiches (choripan), burritos and tacos, and sells his chorizo by the pound. When customers wanted his salsas, spices and flavorings as condiments, he began selling them as well.
The shop is open only four days a week, with plans to expand in the future as growth permits.
His chorizo (six varieties) is artisan all the way. He reminds himself that in Mexico most folks grew their own varieties of spices and that each version had different characteristics. He put that puzzle together to come up with something that stood out on the palate.
“I loved the response I got at the markets, breweries and restaurants for my products and was inspired to add to my traditional Zacatecano red chorizo,” he says. “I came up with our original family recipe for Tolucan chorizo, which is a green colored sausage made with poblano and coriander. I had the red and green chorizo and they both were huge hits. Everybody seemed to want them and now I’m making over 500 lbs. of these a week.”
Some of the top Mexican restaurants in Los Angeles seek out his meats and he is working on a deal with a co-packer, Marisa Foods in Long Beach, to make his product to his specifications under the US Dept. of Agriculture’s inspection program. This, he hopes, will expand distribution capability throughout the Southern California market.
About a year ago Raygoza added a business partner, Mandy Barton. “I was doing all the work and the promotion by myself. She came on board and not only helped make product, but assisted with deliveries, serving customers and promoting the business on social media. It seems we landed on Instagram and the internet with a bang. I knew nothing about that, but she made it happen, bringing something to the business that we never had before. The publicity we’ve gotten has been overwhelming.”
One cannot talk to Raygoza without getting captured by his excitement and his humility.
When asked about his plans for the future, he explains that being able to make and get products to those eateries that supported him in the early days is the main goal. His shop has some outside seating and his production area now includes a grinder and a 50-lb. stuffer. Besides chorizo, he offers soups, smoked pork and brisket fare.
Indeed, things are popping so fast at The Chori-Man that when he bought a smoker, he found he needed another one just two weeks later. The shop buys its breads and shells, but he’s thinking ahead to the time when the shop might make its own baked items.
“We’ve begun expanding on some of the family recipes and are now making Argentine, Sonoran and Portuguese chorizos,” Raygoza says. “It all goes back to working on new things and serving our customers with consistency and a strong work ethic.”
He even came up with a popular soyrizo version for customers who disdain meat.
“You know, working that kind of schedule for four years might be draining to some people. But for me it is seeing my crazy project come to life. I don’t feel tired. I look forward to every upcoming food event or festival in our area. It’s just a matter of staying dedicated to a strong work ethic and every day seeing something I thought might never happen come a step closer to reality.
“Sure, there are much bigger companies, but there is plenty of room to operate between them. We just have to remain consistent,” he says.
“What I said earlier about consistency has to do with earning people’s trust,” Raygoza concludes. “Sure, the product is great, but it is what you are committed to putting into it that makes it all better.”