Lili’s Hot Tamales – December 2020 Cedar Creek Lake Online Lake Leader Of The Month
It’s the holiday season and, for many of us, that means heading over to Lili’s Hot Tamales in Gun Barrel City, our December LakeLeader of the Month, for a batch of home- made Christmas tamales for gift giving, family meals or a great tasting snack. Lili’s Tamales is a tamale production business where customers can call in and order tamales and empanadas and pick them up fresh for take home.
Lili Villareal, the enterprising young entrepreneur whose family opened the tamale factory in 2014, was featured on KLTV Channel 7 in Tyler a couple years ago after racking up over 4,000 holiday orders. The story goes that the family started the new enterprise as a business to help fund Lili’s college education! Since then, the youngster and her entire family have not looked back and the tamale business is still booming bigger and better than ever.
Today, I had the opportunity to sit down with Lili’s Grand Father, Jose Villarreal and talk about the Lili’s Tamale’s business and tour their operation. While I visited the business, I also met Lili’s Grandmother, mother and father, all of whom were busy working the tamale assembly line working to produce the best in high quality tamales for the family business and its customers. Lili’s Tamale’s is truly a story about family and food and a desire to serve customers with great products and excellent customer service.
Interview with Lili’s Hot Tamales
Eric Gore: Hi Jose, it’s great to see you again. Looks like things are really picking up for the holiday season here. How are things going this year?
Jose Villarreal: Yes Eric. This is our busiest time of the year. Customers start ordering their Christmas tamales soon around Thanksgiving and we don’t slow down until quitting time for Christmas on Wednesday December 23rd. Until then, its all-hands-on-deck trying to get as many orders out the door to as many customers as possible. We even try to reach out to many long-time customers to remind them to get their orders in so they don’t procrastinate and miss out at the last minute.
Eric: Well, it’s great to hear you have a loyal fan base, Jose! Are you doing anything special for the holiday season?
Jose: Well, of course many customers are placing to go orders of tamales for Christmas. This year, we’re offering Tamale Gift Baskets. We’re also offering Lili’s Tamale’s Gift Cards which is a great for stocking stuffers and corporate gift giving!
Eric: That’s fantastic, Jose. So, what makes your tamales so special?
Jose: We use only natural ingredients and source only the finest beef, pork and chicken from the best suppliers. Also, we import our spices from carefully selected partners, including several out of state. Our customers trust that we produce tamales to exacting standards. We are compliant and meet rigorous USDA standards for health and safety for all of our products and operations.
Eric: Jose was kind enough to take me on a short tour of the tamale processing area but only after I was fitted with protective clothing and instruction on proper safety protocols in the production area. Below is a 360 degree Virtual Tour of the Lili’s Tamale production area we were allowed to inspect! As you can clearly see, it’s a first-class operation and is set up for ready expansion when the business is set to grow.
Eric: Jose, thanks again for the short tour! What kind of tamales do you make at this facility?
Jose: Well, we offer beef, chicken, pork and Jalapeno and cheese tamales for starters. But, we also offer some specialty tamales that our customers come back for again and again. One of our big sellers most recently is our veggie tamale. Also popular are our cactus tamales and our corn tamales.
In addition to tamales, we off two kinds of empanadas, Savory which include Beef fajita, Philly Cheese Steak and Peccadillo and Sweet including Cherry, Chocolate, Apricot, Peach, Lemon, Pineapple and Apple. We also offer an amazing selection of scratch made hot sauces and salsas.
Eric: Amazing. I wonder how many Cedar Creek Lake folks don’t know about you. By the way, do you ship your tamales and other items outside of the CCL area?
Jose: No, not yet but soon. For now, we have a pretty large fan base with customers coming from Tyler, Dallas and even Fort Worth. Next year, we’re planning to offer shipping for customers who want to call in orders. On-line orders will come next. Also, we do offer a limited selection of complete tamale meals for carry out.
Eric: So, what does the future hold for Lili’s Tamales?
Jose: We see expanding to a more online business with more product selections and a larger market coverage area. With the increased health concerns caused by the pandemic and other restrictions, the American public has increasingly turned to ready to eat meals at home. As our menu has expanded and we’ve established USDA approved standards and production processes here at our Gun Barrel C0ity facility, we are in a good position to take Lili’s Tamales to the next level beginning in 2021,
Eric: That all sounds great, Jose and Lili’s Tamales is definitely worthy of selection of our December 2020 LakeLeader of the Month. Last question for our readers: What days are you open? And, what are your hours of business for customers to come by and pick up their tamales?
Jose: We are open Wed thru Fri 10:00am to 5:00pm and Saturday 10:00am to 2:00pm or until we run out. Customers are advised that they should call ahead to make sure they get their orders in as soon as possible for Christmas or other special occasions!