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Their business began in Sellwood -- now it's moved east, opposite the Flavel Street Grocery Outlet store

DAVID F. ASHTON - Putting freshly-ground dough into the tortilla maker is Three Sisters Nixtamal employee Letty Rodriguez. A company set up to make tortillas in the traditional way, and calling itself "Three Sisters Nixtamal", was featured in the July 2013 issue of THE BEE. It was then located at the northern edge of the City of Milwaukie in Sellwood – but now the owners have purchased their own building in the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood.

"It's true, we bought the building on the northwest corner of S.E. 72nd Avenue and Flavel Street – after years of leasing commercial kitchen space, since we started business in July of 2012, selling what we made at People's Food Market and at farmers markets," confirmed the "honorary sister" of the three owners, Pedro Ferbel-Azcárate

It took them three months to convert their new building, most recently used as a synagogue, into a certified food kitchen, reported partner Wendy Downing.

"This location is a small commercial neighborhood hub; and from here we want to serve the purpose of providing healthy food and jobs, and also increasing the vibrancy here in Brentwood-Darlington," Pedro smiled.

Partner Adriana Azcárate-Ferbel reminded THE BEE that the "three sisters" in the company name refers to the traditional agricultural method of growing maize (corn), beans, and squash together; and, 'nixtamal" is an Aztec word to describe corn that has been partially cooked, soaked with calcium hydroxide, and rinsed clear, turning it into what folks in the southern United States call "hominy".

"Our business is very different from the big tortilla manufacturers, because we're one of the only ones that make tortillas the traditional way," Adriana explained. "In the factories, they grind dry corn into flour in gigantic machines, and that sits in huge silos for a long time, losing a lot of its living properties."

In small batches, doing it by hand, Three Sisters Nixtamal still cooks the corn, rinses it thoroughly, then puts it through a molino – a stone grinder. "So, our tortillas are made from moist fresh dough, not reconstituted from flour," Adriana said.

They've also developed a good business selling the moist dough used for making fresh tortillas, sopes, tamales or pupusas to caterers and home cooks for special occasions, remarked Wendy – adding that they also sell the un-ground prepared corn for those who want hominy – and a rough ground product, often served for breakfast and typically called "hominy grits".

The nine-employee company's tortillas are sold at local stores such as New Seasons Markets, Whole Foods, and local food cooperatives. "We also wholesale to local restaurants – so, you may be eating our tortillas when dining out and not even know it!" said Pedro.

And soon, they hope to open a retail store in the front room of their new factory; but for now, they're focusing on their baking business.

Learn more about this local company at their website: www.threesisterspdx.com

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