SAN ANTONIO – Inside Lux Bakery on San Antonio’s South Side, it may sound like a factory, but it smells more like your abuela’s kitchen.
For more than a half century, the small, family business has been baking up conchas, empanadas and sweet success.
“We are a traditional Mexican pastry factory,” said Vice President John Zambrano.
Chances are you may have enjoyed some of their pan de polvo, or Mexican wedding cookies, or their colorful conchas. As a commercial bakery, Lux sells to grocers, distributors and school districts.
“Right here in North East ISD in San Antonio, we actually supply a lot of those conchas,” Zambrano said. “My kids didn’t even realize they came from here until I brought them home.”
As one worker precisely measures the cinnamon into a bag of dry ingredients, another drops a giant glob of dough into a machine that spits out rows of perfectly-shaped dinner rolls.
Across the plant, crews begin boxing the goodies for delivery as another machine churns out an army of little gingerbread men. Lux is the largest producer of gingerbread in the state, according to Zambrano.
It is mass production with a personal past.
“The recipes come from Ignacio Senior,” Zambrano said. “He is the man behind everything that takes place here today.”
Ignacio Alvarez, Sr. is 85. It’s not unusual for him to stop in to check on business -- one he started 55 years ago.
At 17 years old, Alvarez took a job baking at his neighborhood H-E-B.
“I made 49 cents an hour,” he said.
Alvarez decided baking, which he learned from his uncle, would be his family’s future. So, Alvarez began planning and saving.
“I saved my money for 13 years, a little bit at a time,” he said.
When he finally was ready to open his own shop, Alvarez said H-E-B not only wished him well, but gave him some business.
His early bakery didn’t have the fancy machinery and giant ovens that Lux has today.
“Of course not,” Alvarez said. “The little bakery I had was just a simple bakery.”
For decades, he ran his bakery at a little shop on South Zarzamora until it moved to a much larger space on Centennial.
The plan now is to continue to grow and meet the challenges of providing school breads and pastries that meet government guidelines.
While Alvarez may not be ready to share the secret ingredients to their recipes, he said the secret to success is simple: hard work.
“Business is like everything else,” Alvarez said. “You go for it, get with it and do not be afraid to work.”