A valued customer of Shamrock Foods, both sharing the same birth year and place, the special connection between Flores Concepts and Shamrock Foods Company goes beyond a foodservice partnership. It’s about shared roots, like-minded beliefs, and the true grit it takes to survive and thrive for 100 years and counting.
Raymon Flores, Flores Concepts President, exudes a contagious energy and leadership quality from the moment he starts sharing about his heritage. Ray is quick to credit today’s success - spanning eight restaurant concepts and a foodservice product line - to the two “Charro Family” women who began it all with El Charro, the nation’s oldest Mexican restaurant in continuous operation by the same family.
Monica was born in Tucson to French immigrant parents. Jules, her famous stonemason father, was commissioned from France to build the frontier town’s first Catholic church - the St. Augustine Cathedral - among other historic Tucson buildings. In her teen years, Monica began cooking for her father’s workers, many of whom were native to the land. She was intent on learning Mexican cooking traditions local to the area, but had a gift for incorporating her family’s own French methods - adding ingredients like oils, peas and radishes, which continue to be Charro Family staples today.
In 1922, Monica officially opened her own little shop and named it El Charro. Monica welcomed all walks of life through her doors. She pushed on through war, the depression, racial conflict and more until developers ultimately drove her to relocate. Monica moved El Charro into the family home, but now in her 70s, it took a toll on her health.
Enter Ray’s mom, Carlotta Flores. In her youth Carlotta would spend memorable afternoons in El Charro helping sun dry meat and pan frying tacos. When her great aunt left part of the new El Charro building to her, she was filled with an intense desire to carry on the family legacy created by her Tia Monica.
“We grew up in that building, I had my high school prom at that building. All walks of life have come through our doors,” said Flores. “My mom made it the second coming of El Charro, and along the way she’s perfected her craft in Tia Monica’s name and taken it to the next level.”
Throughout Carlotta’s 40 plus years as a chef, she’s been an innovator and originator, harmoniously incorporating culinary trends of today while always paying homage to yesterday’s favorites. Her secret is using great and simple food in everything she creates.
Living The Legacy
Throughout Carlotta’s 40 plus years as a chef, she’s been an innovator and originator, harmoniously incorporating culinary trends of today while always paying homage to yesterday’s favorites. Her secret is using great and simple food in everything she creates. Carlotta’s culinary genius, combined with her family’s commitment to every aspect of the business is what’s transformed El Charro into the culinary leader it is today. Ray spearheads innovative branding, mutually-beneficial collaborations and thoughtful growth. His brother is the owner/manager of the El Charro Café and his sister Candace oversees the extensive catering and events side of the family business.
Among Flores Concepts consumer story-sharing and recipe contests, the family is celebrating its Centennial milestone with the recent launch of its most recent concept - The Monica Open Kitchen + Bar. The fresh, fast and made-with-love menu of this hybrid restaurant and market also features artisan breads by three-time James Beard nominee Don Guerra. In addition, Tucson hot spot is just a few blocks from where the original El Charro shop was located.
There’s no doubt Tia Monica is also proud of The Monica Open Kitchen + Bar’s local vendor relationships and University of Arizona’s Community and School Garden Program partnership as well as the restaurant’s “Tucson Tuesdays” event series highlighting local businesses and community groups.
And while the family business is growing through the creation of new concepts like this, Ray and his team have also had great success by evolving the original El Charro into concepts hyper focused on individual consumer wants and needs. Charro Steak and Del Rey is Tucson’s only 100% grass fed, mesquite grilled, steak and sustainable seafood restaurant. Charrovida, partly inspired by Ray’s own battle with thyroid cancer, marries heart-healthy Mediterranean foods with native Sonoran cuisine and features recipes using only sustainable proteins and natural resources. They’ve even created a concept for on-the-go consumers with Barrio Charro, a quick-serve concept in partnership with Don Guerra featuring local Arizona wheat, tortas, and sandwiches.
“Charro Steak and Del Rey will likely be one of the brands we grow, and Shamrock Foods was with us from the start on this,” said Flores. “Getting access to fresh fish and sustainable seafood in the middle of the desert is only possible thanks to Shamrock’s Pier 22 Seafood CO®.”
Two Of A Kind
Flores feels an incredible connection to Shamrock Foods and is grateful for the unwavering top-down support. “The Flores and McClelland families went through the same process. We’ve been in business 100 years, in the same industry and markets, and overcoming the same challenges. That’s an incredible accomplishment, and an odd and amazing connection.”
Flores Concepts’ partnership with Shamrock Foods is as diverse as its restaurant concepts and includes everything from navigating today’s supply chain issues to making the most of our UA partnerships to providing refrigeration tricks for the annual turkey drive for El Rio Foundation.
“Whatever it is, I know I can count on Shamrock to make it happen,” said Flores. “We aren’t just an account. We celebrate live moments together and are invested in each other’s personal and business success.”
Much like the McClelland family, the “Charro Family” believes they can do anything as long as they find the best people to do it with.
“We look for people with passion, ambition and personality,” said Flores. “Working with the best people is what it takes to move forward.”
No Flash In The Pan
Monica Flin invented the chimichanga in the 1920s when an El Charro ground beef burrito she was making slipped into a frying pan and she spontaneously shouted “chimichanga,” in replacement of a Spanish swear word starting with “ch.” But as the loved and respected matriarch of her family’s 100-year-old business, “Tia Monica’s” legacy reaches far beyond this claim to fame.
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