Yuca’s Tacos

Yuca's Tacos

Yuca’s Tacos
From 80 Square Feet to Forty Years of History

ENTREPRENEUR STORY

“Her business plan was, we’re going to cook good food, people will line up, and we’re going to make enough money for when I need it. And she was lucky, but tenacious enough, to make it happen.”Dora Herrera

Yuca’s Tacos in Los Feliz may look like an unassuming taco stand, but between those 80 square foot walls are 40 years of history made possible, as Dora Herrera tells it, by staying true to their values, building deep relationships within the community, and of course, making delicious, classically Mexican food. Full of anecdotes about her family business, immigrant history, and a true entrepreneur success story, Herrera’s passion for improving her business made her the perfect FOUND/LA entrepreneur.

Yuca’s Tacos in Los Feliz may look like an unassuming taco stand, but between those 80 square foot walls are 40 years of history made possible, as Dora Herrera tells it, by staying true to their values, building deep relationships within the community, and of course, making delicious, classically Mexican food. Full of anecdotes about her family business, immigrant history, and a true entrepreneur success story, Herrera’s passion for improving her business made her the perfect FOUND/LA entrepreneur.

When the Herrera family first opened the taco stand in Los Feliz, people were unfamiliar with traditional Mexican food. But Dora’s mom, the original cook, stayed true to her authentic cuisine. Says Herrera, “People were very reluctant to not eat hard tacos. But she was very adamant that she was here to sell Mexican food, not americanized versions. She would just say, ‘Try it. And if you don’t like it, go away and don’t pay me, I don’t care. But if you love it, then please tell everyone else.’” Needless to say, people loved it.

Getting those initial customers was another challenge. Herrera’s brother used to stand by the side of the road and wave cars down. He’d tell them to try their food, and if they didn’t like, they would get double their money back. Once again, everyone loved the food. According to Herrera, “We did a little guerrilla marketing before it existed, and it worked.”

Their first big break was when food writer a food writer for the LA Times, wrote an article about them. Not just an article, but a two-page spread in the center of the Food section. Recounts Herrera, “God bless Mindy because she showed up at 9 am, and just said, ‘I’ll help with the phone calls.’ And my mom was like,’phone calls?’ The phone started ringing off the hook. And she’d answer, ‘Yes, I’m the author, and you don’t need reservations.’ And she stayed from 9 am ‘til like 5 or 6, answering the phones, greeting people.”

Like any ambitious business owner, Herrera looked to expand her business, but a second location led to some ups and downs. Their first second location, in Hollywood, was opened in 2007 – right before the 2008 economic crash. Although they made it work for a while, the rising rents forced them out a few years later – sadly, a typical LA entrepreneurship story. Their second location in Pasadena, however, is still thriving. Herrera credits their success with their foothold in the community, once again. As their Los Feliz customer base grew up, and began their own families, they moved to Pasadena. One of their former customers recommended Yuca’s in Pasadena to the CEO of La Plaza, and they came an approved vendor for catering – something that’s changed their business for the better.

As Herrera tells it, it’s the authentic connection with her customers that allowed them to build a strong fan base across the generations, and also the network that allowed their business to reach new heights. Their customers, a very “East-side LA” mix of photographers and writers, would remember Yuca’s Tacos. Customers like photographer Greg Gormand. Gormand would take business meetings at Yuca’s, and years later, ended up creating the welcome video to the United States for Homeland Security – featuring his favorite taco place, Yuca’s Tacos. “So now every time you come in to the United States, there’s a seven minute loop video of “Welcome to the United States,” and we’re in that! Thanks to Greg! So it’s like, generations of cool stuff, stuff that happens, that connects you to something or somebody else, and that’s just beautiful.”

We couldn’t agree more.

previous arrow
next arrow
Slider

Sign up for updates from FOUND/LA