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Montalvan Sales, Inc. to Receive District Small Business Person of the Year Award

Family-owned and operated wholesaler and distributor of more than 900 ethnic food products meets the culinary needs of cultures and ethnicities across the Western US

SANTA ANA, CA – Marcos and Carmen Montalvan, owners of Montalvan’s Sales, Inc., have been selected to receive the Small Business Person of the Year Award from the U.S. Small Business Administration.  The award will be presented to the Montalvans in honor of their contributions to the local community and economy by operating a thriving wholesale business based in Ontario, California. 

The Montalvan’s story began when Marcos and his wife Carmen immigrated to the United States from their native Cuba in the 1960s, in search of a better life.  For the next 25 years, Marcos worked in a variety of independent grocery stores, including his own small market catering to the native foods of the Caribbean.  Meanwhile, Carmen spent 18 years working at a major financial institution, working her way up to supervisor of 13 tellers.  They began noticing that consumers from the islands of Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa arrived at their store in search of cassava, taro, tin fish and various other items that were not available at their local supermarkets.  The lack of product and growing demand prompted the couple to visit Fiji, New Zealand, and Australia in search of suppliers.  During the trip, Carmen carried a list of the top 50 items that were requested by the local U.S. clientele.  After the visit, Carmen and Marcos decided to open a distribution company dedicated to “Bringing You the Taste of Home®” through niche markets, opening in 1987. 

The company was first based in the garage of the Montalvans’ home.  As inventory was sold, they quickly reinvested in more products and the business grew, although cash flow management was difficult.  Within a few months business was strong enough to support a commercial location.  The Montalvans leased a small market, outgrowing it quickly, and then moved to a second warehouse location where they stayed for several years.  Growing demand for the company’s products prompted several more moves before the company eventually settled into its current location at 2225 S. Castle Harbour Place, purchased through the SBA’s 504 loan program in 1995.

Montalvan Sales has grown from its humble beginnings in the family garage to sales of approximately $11 million dollars.  They distribute products in a half dozen western U.S. states as well as several island countries in the South Pacific.  The company, now in its 25th year of operation, added four employees this year, bringing its total work force to 40 individuals.  The owners’ daughters, Monica and Marilin, are personally involved in the daily operations, marketing, and administration, with the eldest daughter Monica running the company’s second office in Hayward, California and Marilin managing the office at the Ontario location.

The Montalvans were nominated by the award by Christina Loza, an intellectual property attorney who has helped the company to register their own private labels including Polynesian Treasures, Riquitas, La Nuestra, La Guanaquita, Elephant’s Pride, Hellaby’s, San Antonio de Padua, and La Verdadera. 

The Montalvans will be honored alongside other Small Business Week Awards recipients at the 49th Annual Small Business Week Awards Celebration, hosted by the SBA’s Santa Ana District Office and the Inland Empire Small Business Development Center at the City National Grove of Anaheim on Tuesday, June 5, 2012 from 11:30am until 2pm.  For information about the event, please contact Doug Dare at (714) 560-7467.  To RSVP, please visit www.49thannualsbwawards.eventbrite.com.