The Tamale Lady needs your money. Virginia Ramos — the woman known as the Tamale Lady because she has been selling tamales in bars around the city for years — announced Thursday that she’s launching a fundraising campaign to open a brick and mortar location in the Mission. Ramos’ business fell into trouble in recent weeks when Zeitgeist, the bar where she most often sold her goods, announced it could no longer permit Ramos to sell tamales on their property because her food wasn’t made in a commercial kitchen and therefore wasn’t up to code.
To achieve her goal, Ramos is launching a 60-day Indiegogo campaign with the hopes of raising $155,000. That money will help Ramos secure a space in the Mission, District 9 Supervisor David Campos said Thursday.
“If everybody who has ever bought a tamale from Virginia donates, she can do it,” said Campos, who was interpreting for Ramos at a news conference at the Latin America Club.
At the conference, Campos explained that Ramos has been saving money from years of selling tamales and that the money asked on Indiegogo is the additional money needed to open a place. Anything received on top of that amount will go to Jamestown Community Center, a Mission District non-profit dedicated to providing youth services.
Jamestown’s Executive Director Claudia Jasin said Ramos was “a model entrepreneur by continually giving back to community.”
Barbary Consulting is also offering Ramos pro-bono consulting to assist in registering a new business and Bank of San Francisco has volunteered free banking services.
“It wouldn’t be San Francisco without the Tamale Lady,” Alex Clemens of Barbary Coast Consulting said.
Ramos has been selling her tamales at bars since the 1990s and has developed numerous relationships with San Francisco’s late night denizens, including many at-risk youth. Her work selling tamales and offering free counseling to at-risk youth inspired the documentary Our Lady of Tamale.
Campos referred to Ramos throughout the event as a “San Francisco institution.” He added that his office is in discussions with the Department of Public Health to see how he can help other food vendors who like Ramos don’t cook in a commercial kitchen and may not have proper permits.
“We want to protect public health and public safety,” Campos said, “but we are committed to helping those folks,” he said referring to other food vendors.
Ramos has yet to find a space for her future shop, but said she’s confident that she’ll receive enough financial support to make her dreams come true.
“People have heart here,” Ramos said.