Many fine mechanical inventions have come from American garages, but in Del Rio one outbuilding gave rise to something much tastier: Julio’s Chips.
Julio Garcia founded the company not long after he began making his chips and special seasonings from his home. A chef at the now-defunct Branding Iron restaurant, Garcia had created his own blend of spices for chips, meats and other foods, and quickly was so busy that his wife, Lilia, booted him out of the kitchen and into the garage.
Fast-forward a decade or so, and Julio’s Chips had become a large-scale operation with its own building, a distribution network and even a restaurant. The company’s products can be found throughout Texas and soon will be on grocery shelves in other locales as well. But everything still revolves around the Del Rio base of operations, says Miguel Garcia, president, who recalls just how small the initial outfit was.
“Dad was the salesman, and we were the production crew,” Garcia says of himself and his brothers, who remain involved in different facets of the business. “It really started with the seasonings, which we began to take to stores and meat markets. The chips we just fixed up using old cardboard sheets from the bottom of 24-packs of soda and then covered with freezer paper. Then we went to freezer bags and eventually to buckets.”
These days, Julio’s operates out of a plant that produces 2.5 tons of chips per day and also features a restaurant on site. Other Garcias involved include sons Pete, who acts as operations manager, and Jose, who operates a second factory and four restaurants in San Angelo. And while Julio himself is retired, his children continue with the same enthusiasm that has made the company a success.
“I can remember what a big deal it was when we got a new fryer,” Miguel Garcia recalls. “Dad started with a small pan on the stove, and we get excited every time we buy anything new for the business which really helps us.”
While the company continues to spread out in different directions, Del Rio is and will always be home, he adds.
“We plan to build a new manufacturing operation here, because we’re out of space where we are,” Garcia says. “Our food brokers say that we should be in San Antonio or Austin, because that would be more centralized for them. But we’re Julio’s from Del Rio, and this is where we want to be. We’re known for being from here, and this is where we want to grow our business.”
Find more on Del Rio's dining scene.