Beloved chorizo business in Tempe closes after more than 60 years

Bonnie Gonzales got in line at 5 a.m. on Friday at Bill’s Market in Tempe hoping to get a portion of their famous chorizo before the business closes on Saturday, June 18.

She was among the last customers to get chorizo, which sold out by 10 a.m. However, Gonzales said the nearly 5-hour wait was worth it.

“Bills Markets’ is the only chorizo I’ve ever eaten,” she said. “It’s about the taste, the hotness of it, it’s just got a flavor to it.”

Gonzales said Friday was the third consecutive day she came into the market to get chorizo for her and her family since learning the business would close after 60 years, as it has been a longtime favorite.

“I’m very sad about it closing, but I’m happy for them, they’re such good people, and it’s time. Over 60 years is a long run.”

After 62 years the family is retiring from Bill’s Market in Tempe. Vicki Sims was one of the last customers to get chorizo after waiting hours in line. The market sold out of their specialty before 10 a.m. on June 17, 2022.

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According to Bobby Figueroa, the market’s owner, what makes the chorizo special lies within the top-secret recipe that has been in his family for about 62 years.

He said the recipe was passed on to him and his wife by his uncle Bill, whom the market is named after.

“It’s a secret, we don’t share it with anyone,” he said. “My kids and grandkids, they know it because they work here, but nobody else knows.”

However, he said it’s not all about the recipe. He also credits the success of the chorizo to the ingredients they use, and to his wife’s cooking skills.

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“It’s all quality products, and my wife, who’s at the register, she makes the chorizo every morning. She is an amazing cook,” he said.

Figueroa said as soon as he woke up on Friday he saw from his window a line already forming and extending to the parking lot. He said he was grateful to see his customers continue to support his business to the end, so he got ready to serve chorizo with his family.

After 62 years the family is retiring from Bill's Market in Tempe. Mary and Bobby Figueroa help a customer on their penultimate day, June 17, 2022. The market is known for their chorizo.

After 62 years the family is retiring from Bill’s Market in Tempe. Mary and Bobby Figueroa help a customer on their penultimate day, June 17, 2022. The market is known for their chorizo.

“I really appreciate it. It made me a little nervous, but I got ready this morning, we opened up the store a little bit before 8 and I asked ‘Are you ready? Alright! Come in,’” Figueroa said.

And like that, he said they have been selling between 600 and 700 pounds of chorizo every day this week.

Figueroa’s granddaughter Isabella Alvarado, 16, said she was surprised to see the long lines forming up outside the market throughout the week, but she thanked the loyal customers supporting her family’s business in its last days.

“I think they’re partly crazy! But I get it, the chorizo is so good,” she said. “I think it’s cool that they really want it that much.”

Alvarado said her grandparents’ business is where she, her brother, and her cousins grew up. She said she feels sad about the business closing, but she’s certain it will reopen sometime in the future.

“We would always come in with my mom, and we all would be just running around as kids, so that’s something that we’ll miss,” she said. “All of us are already thinking of reopening it at some point, but we don’t know the exact date.”

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After 62 years the family is retiring from Bill's Market in Tempe. Customers wait hours in line to purchase chorizo before closing day, Saturday, June 18, 2022.

After 62 years the family is retiring from Bill’s Market in Tempe. Customers wait hours in line to purchase chorizo before closing day, Saturday, June 18, 2022.

Figueroa also said he hopes his family will take care of the business, but said he thinks it’s time for him and his wife to rest.

“We’ve been working here 7 days a week for 38 years. So it’s time,” Figueroa, who is 71-years-old, said.

He said his plans after retiring include traveling with his family around the state.

The destinations he looks forward to the most are Sedona and Flagstaff, he told The Arizona Republic.

“We want to do a little bit of traveling because we never had time for that,” he said.

Chorizo unlike any other

After 62 years the family is retiring from Bill's Market in Tempe. Cousins Bella Alvarado and Tony Figueroa package up pounds of chorizo to sell on June 17, 2022.

After 62 years the family is retiring from Bill’s Market in Tempe. Cousins Bella Alvarado and Tony Figueroa package up pounds of chorizo to sell on June 17, 2022.

Elexa Navarro was waiting in line outside the market with her dad.

Navarro said Figueroa is her dad’s cousin, so she’s had Bill’s Market’s chorizo her entire life.

“My dad doesn’t play about his chorizo, he always wants it to be the best,” Navarro said.

And for them, the best chorizo is the one made by the Figueroas.

“For me, it’s like the texture, the taste,” Navarro said. “Any other chorizo I’ve ever had was not the same, it doesn’t taste the same, it doesn’t have the spice.”

Navarro said that it has become an important tradition for her to be able to share good chorizo as a family. Now that the business is closing, she said she plans to come up with her own chorizo recipe.

“I asked my dad to ask them for their recipe, but they never told him, they said it was a secret,” Navarro said. “I’ll guess I’ll have to come up on my own. I’m really not planning on getting it anywhere else. After this, unless it’s from Bill’s Market, the chorizo can stay on the shelves.”

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Reach breaking news reporter Laura Daniella Sepulveda at [email protected]  or on Twitter @lauradNews.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Tempe chorizo spot Bill’s Market closes after over 60 years