Before mission statements were in vogue, businesses were built on the hard work of employees and by providing good service. This axiom was especially true for the spate of family businesses that opened in the late 1960s that continue to operate at a profit today.
Diana's Mexican Food Products is one of those family owned and operated enterprises that started from humble beginnings and continues to enjoy success that has carried its founders into the twenty-first century.
As a young Mexican immigrant, Samuel F. Magaña came to America at the age of sixteen. He was the first employee hired by another large Mexican food company in Los Angeles, where he was eventually promoted to general plant manager, while concurrently attending night school to enhance his education.
In addition to learning a trade that would eventually be the foundation upon which the family business was built,
Sam also met Hortensia, who moved from Durango, Mexico to Los Angeles in the early 1960s. The two shared a passion for American enterprise – and for each other – and were soon married.
By 1969, armed with entrepreneurial drive and business know-how, the young couple purchased the first of what would soon become a chain of grocery, wholesale and restaurant business that bore the name of their firstborn daughter, Diana.
The first to open was a small grocery store in Gardena, operated by Hortensia while Sam continued to hold down his job at the plant. By then, his tenure had reached well over twenty years. Food products sold at the grocery store were authentic in every way, as Hortensia often made trips to Mexico to select items to be sold in the family's market. Tortillas were among the best-selling products in the store, and soon. Diana's first tortilla-manufacturing plant opened in Maywood in 1973.
While the family business thrived and expanded, so too did the Magaña family. Two daughters, Diana and Hortensia, and a son, Sam Jr., completed the family portrait. Diana made history of her own as the first Hispanic woman to be crowned Miss California 1987 – 88, and later, Miss USA / World.
From the mid-1970s through the early 1990s, the Magaña family business prospered. Next to open were a bakery, another tortilla plant, restaurants and a tamale processing plant.
It was the opening of the family's El Monte corn tortilla plant and a small restaurant in 1991 that put Diana's Mexican Food Products on the map in the heart of San Gabriel Valley.
El Monte was chosen as the site for the tortilla plant because of its support of business growth and expansion. The family owns the land in each location where they operate, and they spend the money necessary to upgrade each site, thereby adding value to the community's overall economic base.
Many of the one hundred employees who work at the San Gabriel Valley location originally lived near the Norwalk location, and willingly uprooted their families to move them closer to the new plant. As a testament to Sam's treatment of his employees, several members of Diana's original workforce remain today, along with many of the sons and daughters of those original workers.
Today, the company's client base reaches across the Pacific into Japan, where the popularity of authentic Mexican cuisine has skyrocketed. Diana's also supplies tasty homemade tortilla chips to large casino clients in nearby Las Vegas, and produces private label tortillas and other fine products to domestic clients in Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada, and Oregon.
Each of the Magaña children has worked in the business at one time or another. In fact, a larger than life portrait of the trio adorns the company's fleet of trucks.
Sam Jr., a graduate of California State University, Dominguez Hills' business administration program, continues to be involved in the company's day-to-day operations as general manager.
After spending time gaining valuable hands on experience, young Sam has returned to school to pursue his MBA at Loyola Marymount University on a part-time basis, while concurrently working at the family's business. Sam's sister, Hortensia, is also a LMU alumnus, having received her degree in international business. Diana, a USC graduate, studied communications.
The family maintains a strong sense of civic duty in each community they do business in. In addition to her role as vice president of Diana's Mexican Food Products, the Los Angeles Business Council has honored the elder Hortensia for her business achievements and impact women in the workplace. She volunteers her time in the promotion of Mexican art and culture in the Los Angeles area.
Sam Sr. volunteers his time by raising much needed funds for the less fortunate in his role as past president of Comite De Beneficencia. He also serves as scholarship fund co-chair of Pomona's College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific.
Diana's also actively supports local law enforcement agencies, chambers of commerce, churches, and other nonprofit organizations.
According to Sam Sr., people can achieve whatever they put their minds to. With that belief, and by offering a quality selection of fine food products, the Magaña family business continues to enhance the San Gabriel Valley community, and is likely to endure for generations to come.