Can we get real for just a minute or two? Have you heard OUR story??? Did you know that our founder, Don Pancho - at the age of 12 - started learning the trade of a baker?? He lived in Mexico and had to earn money to take care of his mom. No bakery would obviously hire him as a baker at that age, but he did clean up the bakery for a small amount of money and pitched in as needed during the day. He would often sleep at the bakery, so he would be ready to go when the bakers arrived to bake at the crack of dawn. He had a limited formal education, but he definitely got hands on teaching and learning. At that time, the bakery did not have electric dough mixers, so he learned how to mix pounds and pounds of dough with his HANDS and became a master "MAESTRO" of homemade pan dulce/Mexican pastries
Don Pancho migrated to the US through the Bracero Program. A program that allowed Mexican nationals, on the Mexican-US border to work in the US during the day and return to their homes in Mexico at the end of the day. Later in life the Braceros were some of his clients as he delivered pan dulce/Mexican pastries to them before and after the hard day of labor work in the US.
After Don Pancho’s experiences in Mexico he eventually opened his first bakery in Texas in 1955. The family would migrate to the Caldwell/Wilder area following the migrant labor families and set-up his bakery temporarily, then travel back to his bakery location in Texas. They lived briefly at the Caldwell Labor Camp around 1964 where he rented a space in a large warehouse building. After a short few months, the family moved to Wilder and rented a building/house that provided a space for living and establishing his bakery. He liked the western Idaho-eastern Oregon area so much that after one more trip to Texas in 1966, he loaded his wife and six kids in a Rambler station wagon and pulled a U-Haul with his small commercial oven and baking tools and made the long journey to Idaho one more time. He arrived safe with his family and less than $10 in his pocket.
A man to never quit or ask for help - he put his head down and eventually opened his bakery in Nyssa, Oregon – a location with one of the largest labor camps in the Treasure Valley area. Business would slow down during the winter months as the migrant families moved back to their hometowns in Texas. During this period, he worked at the Amalgamated Sugar Factory’s winter campaign. However, he continued to also do what he loved; make pan dulce/Mexican pastries at a smaller scale.
Don Pancho enrolled in citizenship classes and proudly received his US citizenship in the early 70’s. When asked while he was taking his citizenship classes what farmer he was going to work for – he replied – “I’m not going to work for a farmer – I’m going to have a successful Mexican bakery – and you sir – are going to be my first customer!!” He was able to purchase the property at 1770 N. Third St in Nyssa and constructed his immigrant dream, Rodriguez Bakery. Who was his first customer?? That same gentleman.
He started home delivery of his Mexican pastries in the 70’s. He would bake pan dulce starting at 3 am. He started as a one man show; baking all day and making home deliveries out of his Rambler station wagon until dark, when his customers arrived from a long day of working in the agriculture fields. As his business grew, he bought delivery vans and hired drivers. The vans were loaded with fresh baked goods daily and out delivering in the afternoon. They delivered in the Treasure Valley area that included Oregon and Idaho communities where migrant families lived.
Don Pancho was a hard-working man and a passionate baker; he always kept his own delivery route and stayed in touch with his customers, they were a part of his family. He made many, many friends and to this day people share their personal stories with our family. They talk about their children – or even they themselves - receiving a free cookie or how he thew in a “pilon”- one extra pan dulce - in the bag. We hear that he made his customers feel special. One person told us he would leave pan dulce in a bag hanging from a tree when they weren’t home. They said it was a great welcome after a long day of working in the fields. He trusted his customers to pay when they could as he knew they often arrived without any financial resources. The stories go on and on.
His passion was his bakery and making his customers happy with his pan dulce. He loved his 50-year daily routine. He enjoyed his craft and was happiest when he was baking. His pan dulce was made with lots of love and pride.
Don Pancho fell ill in the fall of 1995 – right after he and his amazing wife – Carmen – celebrated their 44th Wedding anniversary. Even through all the pain he endured during his illness – he never quit working. It hurt him to lift his legs to climb stairs. It hurt his back to drive. But HE NEVER QUIT.
After many doctor visits with no answers, he was diagnosed with kidney cancer on Halloween of 1995. The cancer had spread to his entire body. Not even a month later – at the young age of 69 – on November 22 – he passed away at home surrounded by his loving family.
It was an amazing site at his funeral to see a 2-3-mile parade of cars with people from all over the Treasure Valley area. The church was packed and spilled out into the lobby and outside of the church. This was evidence of how he built genuine friendships with his customers who he treated like family. What an impact he made in this world!! He left a legacy of giving, caring, and always putting his customers first.
We have big shoes to fill because we had a great role model; work hard, listen to our customers and never forget quality is of utmost importance! We strive to be who he was!