LITTLE VILLAGE — Basti Sandoval has not been able to find El Milagro tortillas at her usual grocery shops La Chiquita, Aldi or Cermak Produce for a month.
“There aren’t any tortillas anywhere. … There isn’t any at Walmart either,” Sandoval said in Spanish.
Sandoval was among dozens lined up outside El Milagro Tortillas, 3050 W. 26th St. near the Little Village arch, to grab her daughter’s favorite tortillas Thursday.
Across Chicago and in the surrounding suburbs, folks have found empty shelves instead of El Milagro tortillas. It’s the second time since the pandemic began that the tortilla producer has faced a shortage, but it’s unclear what is causing it.
A company spokeswoman did not return a request for comment.
During last year’s shortage, an El Milagro employee told Block Club the unprecedented long lines were caused by people bulk buying pantry staples — including tortillas — as coronavirus spread.
Then the company closed its 2919 S. Western Ave. factory after a worker died from COVID-19 in April 2020.
At the time, company officials said the factory would undergo a deep cleaning and stay closed for two weeks. But the facility remained closed long after that, with company officials saying the facility was undergoing renovations.
At the time, the company told the Tribune the temporary closure would cut its production of corn tortillas by 75 percent.
More than 80 workers at El Milagro tested positive for coronavirus as of Sept. 30, 2020, according to state data acquired from the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting.
On Thursday, the Little Village shop limited customers to 20 packets of tortillas per customer.
Little Village resident Leonardo Rodriguez took time off work Thursday to make sure he could get stock up on tortillas for his family. In recent weeks, he’s found stores limiting customers to three or four packets. Still, he’s often unable to get tortillas after he finishes work.
Like last year, he said he hasn’t gotten a clear answer from the shop behind the shortage.
“A lot of people depend on these tortillas,” Rodriguez said.
West Chicago resident Irene Noe spent an hour in traffic to stop by the Little Village shop. Noe said she hadn’t been able to find tortillas at local stores for two weeks.
“I don’t know what’s going on? It’s crazy. … If I can’t find them here, where am I going to find them?”” Noe said.
Rafael Colon drove in from south suburban Justice to stock up after he was unable to find El Milagro tortillas in the area.
He bought a box of 20 packets — but with a family of 12, the haul won’t last long, he said.
“I’ll be back next week,” Colon said.
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