Angie Rodriguez and Maria Gamboa are cousins from opposite sides of the Rio Grande valley with a common mission: to provide natural food products that inspire healthy eating and living. They co-own Valley Gurlz Goodz in Albuquerque and primarily produce spicy pickled green beans. These beans serve well as a satisfying nosh on their own, as a crunchy ingredient in pasta salad, or as a peppery garnish for a tall Bloody Mary cocktail.
Rodriguez and Gamboa source local and organic produce seasonally from farms such as ARCA Organics, Armijo Farms, and Valle Encantado Farms in the Albuquerque area. The cousins work well together, balancing creativity and business acumen. “She keeps me in the kitchen,” jokes Gamboa about Rodriguez. Gamboa owns product development, while Rodriguez focuses on the business. Rodriguez explains that it’s a partnership—they support each other and naturally gravitate to their strengths.
In business for a little more than a year, the cousins have an impressive list of accomplishments. Their green beans took second place in the hot and spicy pickled condiments category of the 2014 Scovie Awards, an international competition for hot and spicy foods. La Montañita Co-op stores now carry their products, and they are working to close on an agreement with Whole Foods in Albuquerque in 2014. They have diversified by introducing pickled asparagus, and have developed recipes toward introduction of pickled beets, okra, and watermelon rinds later this year.
Valley Gurlz Goodz made their start selling at local farmers markets around Albuquerque, which they plan to continue to do. They mentor local farmers on how to diversify their businesses with value-added products such as pickled goods, and they plan to grow their own produce someday to better control their supply. They have also enjoyed the support of another local businesswoman, Emma Dean Najar, owner of Tio Frank’s Chile Sauce in Albuquerque.
“We were very lucky when we were placed with Emma Dean and her husband at the Downtown Growers Market [in Albuquerque],” says Rodriguez. “They have been through everything we’ve been through. Tio Frank’s sells their product worldwide and they’re still selling at the farmer’s market. Emma Dean has been more than willing to guide us as much as possible and has given us great advice.”
Rodriguez and Gamboa, too, hope to eventually sell their products at stores outside of New Mexico. “We would like to see more local businesses help our state be self-sufficient. We could be bringing in more money from other states, creating more jobs and more opportunities for local businesses and employees. We want to be part of that movement.”
Editors Note: This story was originally published in our Spring 2014 issue, since then the Valley Gurlz have had great success with their expansion. Valley Gurlz products can be found in a variety of specialty and food stores throughout New Mexico and Arizona to include some of the following: Whole Foods Market, Sprouts Farmers Market, Total Wine & More and La Montanita Co-ops. In the near future, the company’s goal is to include additional partnerships such as Spec’s Liquor and Fine Foods in Texas and Bashas’ in Arizona. In addition, the company anticipates to grow within the food service industry by introducing their newly available bulk options. As a result, Valley Gurlz is currently in the process of collaborating with Whole Foods Market to have these products available in their Olive Bar section by the fall of 2015.
The company is excited to be embarking on the opportunity to expand regionally. As a result, Valley Gurlz is at a stage where the company needs to grow their infrastructure and hire more team members. This includes relocating the company’s operations from the local community kitchen to a privately owned commercial kitchen. This will provide the opportunity for Valley Gurlz to produce on a larger scale for customers. Valley Gurlz Goodz will need to renovate the new kitchen to be more efficient in operations and comply with required guidelines. In addition, this will require purchasing additional kitchen equipment and supplies for the new facility.
Valley Gurlz Goodz, www.valleygurlzgoodz.com
Story written by Valerie Ashe, photo by Stephanie Cameorn