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'Just leave our carts': Custom catering carts stolen from The Tamale Company in Oak Cliff

"If you took it, just leave us our carts," Fernandez said. "Leave it on the street and call us or send us a message or whatever.”

DUNCANVILLE, Texas — Like so many small businesses crippled by COVID-19, The Tamale Company was forced to pivot during the pandemic if they wanted to keep making money. 

The company, which was launched in 2008, started selling small batches of tamales at local markets and catering small events. After a few years, the team started doing large weddings and corporate events. 

When the pandemic canceled plans, their client list dwindled. 

So, Israel Fernandez and his family adapted. They opened a small brick-and-mortar shop in Duncanville offering uniquely crafted culinary goods, pre-packaged food and daily hot lunches. 

"This is our Plan B," co-owner Israel Fernandez said. "We started cooking small portions and adding to the grab-and-go section.”

As the store continues to grow, so have catering opportunities as people start getting more comfortable hosting big events. On Sunday night, Fernandez had finished up a large catering job that ended late. Instead of taking his van to his warehouse in Duncanville, he parked it outside of his home in Oak Cliff because it was late and he was tired. 

"The next morning, on Memorial Day, I went to see the car…I looked outside, and it was gone," Fernandez said. “We were panicking, calling the cops…calling insurance and all that. It was really, really bad.”

Fernandez said someone stole his catering van, the trailer attached to it and the custom-made carts inside of the trailer. 

“All the equipment is custom made for us, so that is what really hurts the most," Fernandez said.

One of the carts was used to serve horchata beverages, and other is a customized bicycle cart that company used to serve tamales at catering events. 

“It feels like somebody come to your house and take something from you," Fernandez said. "That’s how it feels because we put a lot of heart into the equipment that we had.”

He said they have enough vans and equipment to continue operating, but the carts that were stolen can't be replaced. 

Many people have taken to social media to support The Tamale Company, and Fernandez said he and his family are leaning into gratitude for their community. 

"It’s been amazing, honestly," Fernandez said. "We did not expect this much people would reach out. We’re just really thankful, honestly, from the bottom of my heart. I really appreciate it.”

He said his message for whomever stole his carts is simple: "If you took it, just leave us our carts," Fernandez said. "Leave it on the street and call us or send us a message or whatever.”

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