Hot Tamales started as a side hustle for Paulina Perez and her mother, Lupe Perez. They’ve served up their tamales in each of the Tri-Cities since launching in 2017 but are putting down roots in Richland after achieving a big business milestone: buying their own place.
“That’s what makes it so cool,” Perez said. “From our sales, we were able to purchase our own location and that’s a pretty big accomplishment for five years. I never would have thought we would buy our own location.”
Hot Tamales closed its Kennewick store in late April to open its doors at 608 Williams Blvd. in Richland. Tamale Power House LLC bought the building in January 2022 for $388,000, according to county property records.
Hot Tamales started renting out the commissary kitchen about half a year after the purchase.
“My mom is so proud,” Perez said. She says the 75-year-old still helps out but travels out of state during the cold months.
While the pandemic was detrimental to many businesses, Perez says Hot Tamales was ahead of the curve in the way it approached bringing tamales to the community rather than the other way around.
She says the pandemic might have helped Hot Tamales grow as fast as it did.
“I felt bad because a lot of people that started when we started aren’t in business anymore,” she said. “For our business model, we weren’t stressed out. We were always training on doing takeout orders, online orders, even over texting or Facebook.”
When they originally moved into the location at 2125 W. Kennewick Ave., they wanted to make two table dining areas. The pandemic quickly prompted them to turn the area into storage so they could focus on delivery and takeout.
“We were actually extremely busy during Covid,” Perez said, “and everyone was really appreciative that we were available and doing deliveries. We were being very cautious.”
Having lard-free, locally-sourced ingredients is at the core of what Hot Tamales offers. When it first opened, three flavors of tamales were available, including a fourth-generation recipe of pork with a mild red chile sauce.
Now, the restaurant offers six tamale options: pork, red guajillo chicken, green tomatillo chicken, vegetarian rajas, jalapeños and cream cheese and two kinds of vegan tamales, one with jalapeños and beans, and the other with potatoes, carrots, green beans and corn.
A dozen tamales costs $29.
Hot Tomales also sells rice, beans, flavored lemonades, Red Bull and bottled drinks.
With the new location comes some changes. Hot Tamales has a limited menu. At its location in Kennewick, it offered espresso, breakfast burritos and other drink options.
“Our name is Hot Tamales, so I want to focus on tamales,” Perez said. “I feel like doing a bunch of other stuff is not what our name is.”
In addition to their six regular flavors, they offer a seasonal flavor. The current is asparagus.
In addition to the new location is a commissary kitchen. Currently, Doggie Style Gourmet, an American comfort food truck, and #Samesies, offering freeze dried candies, rent the kitchen for food preparation.
Hot Tamales is looking for more traffic in the kitchen as it is just getting started with the new business model. Perez said that being able to help other small businesses is important to her.
“It’s pretty cool because now we get to help other food trucks,” Perez said. “I believe in collaboration over competition, and I want to create that here.”
Hot Tamales had humble beginnings at the Pasco Specialty Kitchen before moving to Kennewick.
“It’s scary and complicated when you’re getting started,” Perez said. “I like to help people with that because a lot of people helped us, and I want to pay that forward.”
With six employees, Hot Tamales sells all over the Tri-Cities and even some surrounding areas. On Tuesdays, find them at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Market; Wednesdays at Flat Top Park in West Richland; Thursdays at the Kennewick Farmers Market; Fridays at the Richland Farmers Market; Saturdays at the Pasco and Prosser farmers markets; and Sundays at Three Eyed Fish Market.
Perez said they eventually want to open their restaurant to the public on Saturdays but do not have a timeline due to wanting to focus on farmer markets.
“We have customers that it’s their routine to buy a dozen on Saturday morning,” Perez said. “They have been customers since day one, so we have to be consistent.”
Soon, Hot Tamales’ salsa will be available in Ranch and Home in Kennewick. In addition to creating its own products, Hot Tamales wants to build shelves to showcase local products from the vendors using their commissary kitchen.
Hot Tamales is open for walk-ins from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Friday.
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