Bonnie Gonzales queued at Bill’s Market in Tempe at 5 a.m. Friday, hoping to get a batch of her famous chorizo before the store closes on Saturday, June 18.
She was among the last customers to get chorizo, which sold out by 10 p.m. However, Gonzales said the nearly 5-hour wait was worth it.
“Bills Markets’ is the only chorizo I’ve ever eaten,” she said. “It’s about the taste, the spiciness, it just has a certain spiciness.”
Gonzales said Friday was the third straight day she’d come to the market to get chorizo for herself and her family since learning the store would be closing after 60 years of a longstanding favorite was.
“I’m very sad about the closure but I’m happy for them, they are such good people and it’s about time. Over 60 years is a long time.”
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According to Bobby Figueroa, the market’s owner, what makes the chorizo special is the top-secret recipe that’s been in his family for about 62 years.
He said the recipe was passed down to him and his wife by his Uncle Bill, after whom the market is named.
“It’s a secret, we don’t share it with anyone,” he said. “My children and grandchildren know because they work here, but nobody else knows.”
However, he said it’s not just about the recipe. He also credits the success of the chorizo with the ingredients used and his wife’s cooking skills.
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“It’s all quality produce and my wife, who works at the register, makes the chorizo every morning. She’s a fantastic cook,” he said.
Figueroa said as soon as he woke up on Friday, he saw a line already forming from his window, stretching all the way to the parking lot. He said he’s grateful to see his customers supporting his business to the end, so he got ready to serve chorizo to his family.
“I really appreciate that. It made me a little nervous but I got ready this morning, we opened the shop just before 8 and I was like, ‘Are you ready? In order! Come on in’” said Figueroa.
And so he said they’ve been selling between 600 and 700 pounds of chorizo every day this week.
Figueroa’s granddaughter Isabella Alvarado, 16, said she was surprised to see the long lines that formed outside the market throughout the week, but she thanked the loyal customers who have supported her family’s business over the past few days.
“I think they’re partly crazy! But I get it, the chorizo is so good,” she said. “I think it’s cool that they really want it that much.”
Alvarado said her grandparents’ business was where she, her brother and her cousins grew up. She said she was saddened by the store’s closure but was certain it would reopen at some point in the future.
“We used to come in with my mom and we all used to run around as kids, so we’re going to miss that,” she said. “We are all already thinking about opening it again at some point, but we don’t know the exact date.”
Figueroa also said he hopes his family will take care of the business but said he thinks it’s time for him and his wife to rest.
“We have been working here 7 days a week for 38 years. So it’s about time,” said Figueroa, who is 71.
He said his post-retirement plans include traveling around the state with his family.
The destinations he’s most looking forward to are Sedona and Flagstaff, he told The Arizona Republic.
“We want to travel a bit because we never had time for it,” he said.
Chorizo unlike any other
Elexa Navarro was standing in line with her father in front of the market.
Navarro said Figueroa was her father’s cousin, so she had been eating Bill’s Market chorizo all her life.
“My dad doesn’t play with his chorizo, he always wants it to be the best,” Navarro said.
And for them, the best chorizo is that of the Figueroas.
“For me, it’s like the texture, the flavor,” Navarro said. “Every other chorizo I’ve ever eaten hasn’t been the same, it doesn’t taste the same, it doesn’t have the flavor.”
Navarro said that sharing good chorizo as a family has become an important tradition for them. Now that the shop is closing, she said she plans to develop her own chorizo recipe.
“I asked my father to ask them for their recipe but they never told him, they said it was a secret,” Navarro said. “I guess I’ll have to come up on my own. I really don’t intend to get them anywhere else. After that, unless it’s from Bill’s Market, the chorizo can stay on the shelves.”
Reach Breaking News reporter Laura Daniella Sepulveda at email@example.com or on Twitter @lauradNews.
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