If you've ever spent your lunch hour nibbling on stale vending machine chips while waiting around an auto repair shop, you'll be happy to hear about Victor Galindo's contribution to the tire business.
That tantalizing aroma in his shop doesn't come from new rubber or old oil, but from the kitchen in back, where employees frantically fill corn husks with homemade tamales in a race to keep up with the lunch rush.
It's the only place in town where you can give your tires and your taste buds a kick at the same time.
Although the sign out front advertises Victor's Tires and Custom Wheels, the shop at 1406 S. 700 West is probably best known for the tamales, tacos and quesadillas made from secret family recipes developed by Victor's wife, Elvia.
"We've come a long way from the days when we worked out of our garage," says Victor, 35, who took time for a Free Lunch chat over pork tamales after a longtime customer suggested that I drop by. "I wouldn't have believed it then if you'd told me I'd be selling tires and tamales."
Born in the small village of Tene, Mexico, Victor was 16 when his mother moved him and his three siblings to Los Angeles to live with an uncle and seek a better life.
"I never knew my father he died when I was 2," he says. "My mom worked very hard for us, but it was hard to make it in Mexico. She always dreamed of getting us an education in America."
After he graduated from high school, Victor's family moved to Salt Lake City, where he found a job in a tire recycling plant. Married to Elvia at age 21, he also signed on as a part-time cook at the Delta Center once the couple started raising a family.
"Sixty hours here, 20 hours there it was hard work," he says. "We saved money for years, dreaming of the day when we could start our own business."
Initially, Victor sold and installed tires in his west-side garage, offering hungry customers potato chips and soda while they waited. In 2004, after he and Elvia bought their own shop, they convinced the city health inspector that it was possible to sell tires on one side and turn out tamales on the other.
"They didn't think it would work," says Victor, "but we knew it was a good idea. People come in here for tires and they're hungry. Why not let them have lunch while they're waiting?"
With the maddening scent of spicy pork and jalapenos drifting through the shop, business in the dining room is usually brisk. In fact, the tamale cafe is so popular that Victor will soon be opening another one at his tire shop in Lehi.
Whether he's slipping on a pair of gloves to help put on snow tires or an apron to fill in for the cook, "my days are usually pretty hectic," he says, tuning the cafe's television to a Latino soap opera yet another diversion for restless customers. "We sell a ton of tamales, probably about 2,500 a week."
It would be nice, he admits, to also sell that many tires, but Victor Galindo is well on his way.Now that he has seven tire shops statewide, "my dream is to open one in every town," he says. He pauses and smiles. "With tamales, of course."
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