The original Mi Ranchito tortilla factory building at 27 W. Third St. lies in rubble to make way for a housing development.
The building originally housed the Albano Grocery, a neighborhood store operated by Pete and Mary Albano into the 1950s.
In 1952, Francisco Santos, who came to Tracy from Guadalupe, Mexico, established a Mi Ranchito store on East Ninth Street and then moved three years later to the Albano Grocery location, where the tortilla-making operation was located.
Santos’ daughter, Aurora Santiago, and her husband, Ruben, became partners in the business at that time.
During the 1950s and into the 1960s, Mi Ranchito provided tortillas to a number of farm labor camps in the area housing Mexican nationals who came here each year to harvest crops.
Over the years, the tortilla operation added machinery to keep up with increased production.
Later, Mi Ranchito distributed its tortillas to markets and restaurants throughout Northern California, delivering the tortillas in a fleet of eight trucks.
Business conditions changed, and the tortilla-making operation in the old Albano building was closed in 1995. The family concentrated its efforts on operating the building purchased in 1972 at Third and Central Avenue, which included a store, a deli, a bar and a restaurant. The restaurant, featuring chef Abel Santiago, was closed in 2002. A few years later, the grocery and deli were sold to new owners.
Mi Ranchito became a familiar name in Tracy as sponsor of a California Mexican-American Baseball League team, the Saints, and as a participant in a number of community programs.
In the meantime, the building that housed the tortilla factory remained vacant until it was demolished recently.
The property was purchased by Javier Diaz, a Tracy resident who received approval Tuesday night from the Tracy City Council to change the zoning of that property and land to the north across King Alley facing Fourth Street from light industrial to medium-density residential.
He plans to build single-family and two-family dwellings on the property.
Larry Gamino, who has become the resident historian of the Southside neighborhood, said the Mi Ranchito building on West Third Street was one of the busiest locations in the area for years and became a community landmark. He’s sad to see it demolished, but he views the plans by Diaz to build housing there as a positive development.
More changes coming
And while there are changing uses of land and buildings on the Southside, there are also changes brewing in the northeast corner of Tracy in the Tracy Outlets complex at MacArthur Drive and Pescadero Avenue.
The outlet center has been losing tenants in a major way in the past decade, and now there are only five stores out of a possible 35 storefronts in operation.
A week ago, I decided to drop by the center and talk to Elaine Yager, longtime manager, to see what’s going on. But Elaine was not there. Her position had been eliminated by owners of the property, Northwest Assets of Walnut Creek, and her last day on the job was Jan. 15, she told me.
Although she didn’t know any details, she believes the property will no doubt be sold soon to new owners for a new use. The property includes 20 acres where the outlet center stands, another 20 acres of undeveloped land to the east and six acres where MacArthur Drive meets Interstate 205 just north of the Chevron station.
Denise Zierott, property manager for Northwest Assets, said she could not comment on any possible transactions.
I’m sure we’ll here more about this sometime soon.
• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.