Don Juan Chiles spice up local food stores

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1960

The Vizcarra family — Rene, Dinah and Rene Jr. — started Don Juan Chiles in their garage. Now they deliver product throughout the state.

Since Don Juan Chiles’ early days, one opportunity has led to another to create the growing family business.

The husband-and-wife team, Rene and Dinah Vizcarra, went from selling burritos and tamales in their garage to two warehouses and three delivery trucks distributing chiles, spices and herbs throughout Colorado.

“It started in our kitchen,” said Rene Vizcarra Jr., who became general manager of the business six months ago. “My mom would make and sell burritos to construction workers during lunch and they enjoyed the flavor and spices she would use. My dad came up with the idea to also sell spices — and the business took off from there.”

The Vizcarras moved to Colorado Springs in 1987 when Rene was involved in car wash startups. Dinah said she went to the supermarket one day to buy corn husks for tamales and when the store didn’t have a good selection, the family took matters into their own hands.

“Rene said, ‘Let’s start selling our own corn husks,’ and that’s the first thing we sold,” she said. “We also needed chiles to make tamales, and that led us to sell something else.”

In 1995, the Mexican-American couple purchased a warehouse and created Mex-Co Enterprises for the wholesale portion of their business and Don Juan Chiles as a packaging company under the limited liability company designation.

The business now sells more than 200 products to local retailers and restaurants. The family earned $1 million in revenue last year.

“This year our goal is to expand to four to six big-box stores,” Vizcarra Jr. said. “Albertsons in Pueblo just started selling our products. We want to humbly enter these stores and explain who we are, what we do and hopefully work our way up.”

The company has sellers in Denver, Pueblo and Colorado Springs. Its biggest distributor is Carniceria Leonela Meat Market at 3736 E. Pikes Peak Ave.

“They carry almost all of our products, so customers have a good selection for whatever they are looking for,” Vizcarra Jr. said.

The Don Juan Chiles brand is named after Vizcarra Sr.’s father; its mission is to bring families together and enhance their meals by selling quality and affordable chiles.

And the business’ chiles are spicier than most, according to Vizcarra Jr.

“Most of our customers want hot,” he said. “Our product is stronger than most of our competition and you can tell just by looking at the color of it.”

The business’ biggest challenge is competition, Vizcarra Jr. said.

“My parents’ business was so small that their competition would surpass them,” he said. “But they’ve relied on each other and persevered through the tough times. They’ve found different ways to educate stores and customers to buy our products.”

Don Juan Chiles created a website and Facebook page and plans to implement new inventory software.

“We’ve been blessed to have continual growth, but at the same time we want to make sure we’re growing at our own pace,” Vizcarra Jr. said. “We have our quality and pricing down but want to perfect what we have before expanding.”

Vizcarra Jr. said his parents built the business through word of mouth, building relationships in the Hispanic community and with local food markets.

“We’re rolling through shipments every week and now have three delivery trucks,” he said. “My parents started out with a small pickup truck and small refrigerator in the back. They would drop me off at school and I became known as the ‘son of the chile guy.”’

The family has learned from the business — and is still learning, Dinah said.

“It’s been hard work, but has paid off,” she said. 


Don Juan Chiles

Employees: 5

Year established: 1995

Location: 3345 Chelton Loop N #B

Contact info: 719-574-1846,
donjuanchiles.com

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