Here's the main thing you need to know about Caldwell's own Casa Valdez: They make a mean tortilla. That quality product has been a thriving competitor in the tortilla market and a local favorite for nearly 30 years.
You can find Casa Valdez products all over the valley-their corn chips at the local fruit stand, their tortillas at every grocers from Paul's to Wal-mart.
The company was started in 1977. Says Casa Valdez's owner, Jose Valdez, they saw a need for this product here in Idaho. Even though the tortilla business was a novel thing in the stores at the time, they "thought it would be a good business to get into." And it was a good business. Still, although they have managed to firmly establish themselves in the market, Casa Valdez must continue to innovate to stay in the tortilla game. Says Valdez, "The biggest factor that we face is competition." Unlike local independent producers, national companies have deep pockets-they can afford to sell a product for less and thus undercut smaller competitors like Casa Valdez.
So how does Casa Valdez stay competitive? Valdez's answer is simple: They try to sell a quality product at the lowest possible price, to "run sales and compete on their [the big companies'] level."
There are key differences, though. Casa Valdez, being local, can focus more on service to their distributors. Says Valdez, "We always beat them there." Another advantage of being a local independent is the freshness of their product. For instance, the Casa Valdez business is literally next door to Paul's Market in Caldwell-there's no way those tortillas aren't fresher than the other guy's.
Says Valdez, the market is always changing, and Casa Valdez strives to keep up. They are always looking for different ways to display the product in-store and to find ways to improve packaging and the product itself. "It's an ongoing process."
Though they've had about three offers over the years, Casa Valdez hasn't been seriously tempted to sell out to bigger interests. Valdez says he wasn't even sure if they were going to be able to pay him what he wanted.
Valdez sees the business's relationship with the community as a mutually supportive symbiosis, and places a high value on that. "I feel that being independent, you expect the local community to support you the way you support your local community," says Valdez. "Being an independent, you feel that you belong here and you're going to do business here. Things work out good that way."
Like many other independent businesses, Casa Valdez is in a position to benefit its community. Employment opportunities are by locals, for locals. Also, says Valdez, producing tortillas helps keep the local Hispanic community in touch with a basic part of their heritage. Casa Valdez's torillas, says Valdez, "help us remember a product that was always on the table of our ancestors."