Azteca Bakery readies for Christmas as city changes around it

(Gabriela Martinez/DD)

The Azteca Bakery and Mexican Fast Food restaurant is set to enjoy their 60th holiday season operating in the Phoenix area.

Sales of Azteca’s tamales in particular increase during Christmas.

“We sell tamales year-round and tamales is a tradition of the southwest, and we do have a lot of people that start coming in and ordering for the holidays,” Rebeca Gephart said.

Gephart owns the restaurant with her brother Felix Lopez and their father Bernando. Gephart’s parents started the business in 1957.

The business has seen various locations, starting at Third Avenue and Yavapai for a very short time before moving to Seventh Street and Mohave until 1972. The business moved to South 16th St. “just south of Buckeye on 16th St,” Gephart said.

Gephart said the business came to its current address at 416 N. 7th Ave. “probably in the late 70s.”

“My dad was a businessman by nature and his dad was a businessman, and so he had it ingrained in him and he always liked business, and food was probably the thing we liked next,” Gephart said.

When the business first started it was mainly a bakery and tortilla factory.

“The community, the neighborhood has always been good but it’s been through a transition most of the time; it [has] changed quite a bit and now it’s changing again, we have over 200 apartments right in front of us now,” Gephart said.

The Alta Fillmore Apartments are located in front of the restaurant, with another apartment complex located near the restaurant.

An obstacle for the business has been the city moving them to different locations.

“They moved us from here to there,” Gephart said. “We’ve been here 60 years, the customers that were young many years ago are still coming in now to buy some of the same things they used to buy when they were young.”

Sales have mostly doubled in the past few years, Gephart said.

Gephart said the recent development in downtown has brought new apartments, but she has not seen as much emphasis on the western side of downtown, where Azteca is located.

Mauro Leon has been working in the restaurant for 25 years. He said Christmas is the busiest time for him.

“Any kind of people, different people,” come to the restaurant, Leon said.

Ruth Rodriguez has been a customer at the restaurant for many years.

“My first visit to Azteca was a field trip for second grade, I remember they would give you a tour of the restaurant and then they’d give you a cookie,” Rodriguez said.

Her favorite dish is their chile rellenos.

“I like [Azteca] because it’s smaller and also it’s family-owned and the people here are very friendly,” Rodriguez said.

Miranda Hernandez also enjoys the restaurant.

“I like how it reminds me of my childhood, it reminds me of when my grandma and grandpa used to cook back in the day,” Hernandez said. “I don’t like Mexican food that much but I do like it here.”

Correction: December 1, 2017

An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to Gephart’s brother as Bernardo and her father as Felix. The story has been updated with the correct names, Gephart’s brother as Felix, and her father as Bernardo.

The earlier version also implied that the entire family had started the business. The story has been updated, stating that it was Gephart’s parents who started the business.