In August 2014, Robert “Bobby” Vasquez, the longstanding owner of the Tamale House on Airport Boulevard, passed away. Vasquez’ death led to the sudden closure of the Tamale House, a renowned breakfast taco destination for locals and tourists alike, leaving behind an Austin icon and putting longtime employees out of work.
Raquel, Shirley, and Maria spent the bulk of their working lives at the Tamale House, more than 30 years of employment combined. Finding themselves unemployed for the first time in years, the three women talked about starting their own Tex-Mex restaurant. During this time, Shirley met a member of a local cooperative business, who suggested they talk with Cooperation Texas, an organization dedicated to developing and supporting worker-owned cooperatives, about starting their restaurant as a worker co-op.
Cooperation Texas began working with the former employees of the Tamale House in October 2014 through its Cooperative Business Institute (CBI), a training program designed to equip participants with the skills, knowledge, and resources needed to start and manage a worker cooperative. Raquel, Shirley, and Maria have received in-depth training on the cooperative business model through the CBI and are now in the process of finalizing their business plan for Our Taco House — bringing back the fast, affordable, and authentic Tex-Mex food familiar to old customers in the form of the first worker-owned Tex-Mex Co-op in the Lone Star State!
Cooperation Texas will be working closely with Our Taco House until the moment their doors open and beyond to ensure the creation of a successful Tex-Mex co-op. As members of the co-op, workers at Our Taco House will have a direct say over key decisions that affect their lives, share the profits and losses equitably among themselves, and enjoy the dignity and security that comes with having an equal ownership stake and a voice in what will ultimately be their business.
Funded by Austin, TX (December 2015)