By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Jan 05, 2022 at 7:02 PM

It’s been a busy two years for Triciclo Peru owners Mario Diaz Herrera and Amy Narr, who opened their first restaurant at 3801 W. Vliet St. in December of 2019, expanded their reach with Triciclo Peru Express at Crossroads Collective in 2020 and added a food truck to the mix at Zocalo Food Park in fall of 2021.

And they’re not stopping there. In fact, the two entrepreneurs – along with business partners Moises and Alina Torres – have taken yet another step forward in their mission to bring Peruvian empanadas to households across the city (and beyond).

That’s thanks to the purchase of a new building at 3616 W. Vliet St., which is slated to house a new production kitchen for Pachamama, the frozen empanada brand they launched together in 2019, offering an expanded slate of opportunities to distribute the empanadas to retail establishments, bars and restaurants.

Vliet Street buildingX

Narr and Diaz Herrera began selling their traditional Peruvian empanadas via a mobile food cart in 2017. As demand grew, they realized there was an opportunity to grow that business while spreading the word about Peruvian culture and cuisine. So they partnered with the Torreses to launch Pachamama LLC, a company focused on the production of bake-and-serve empanadas and accompanying sauces.

“We’ve known that we needed to separate the Pachamama brand from Triciclo Peru for a while now,” says Narr. “But, the motivation to do so increased when we outgrew the production space in our kitchen this past summer.”

Thanks to increased demand – fueled by loyal customers along with new fans who discovered their product at events during the summer – they began looking for a new commercial kitchen.

In September of 2021, the business partners submitted a proposal to the City of Milwaukee to purchase the 3,858 square foot building. Their proposal, among six submitted to the City, was accepted and the partners closed on the property Jan. 4, 2021.

Reviving a vacant property

Narr says they focused on the Vliet Street property not only because it’s located in close proximity to their restaurant, but also because they’d like to be an integral part of the reimagination of the neighborhood where they both live and work.

“We’ve been really inspired by the work that our landlord Tom Straub has done restoring buildings in the area,” says Narr. “And we really liked the idea of continuing to build up the neighborhood that we’re in. Our roots are firmly planted here, the area is developing and we want that to continue.”

Narr says the former residential building has been approved for rezoning to accommodate a mixed use property, which will include a production kitchen on the first floor, storage facilities for the business and a residential space on the top floor. 

She says the first-floor space will have plenty of street-facing windows, along with a service window where customers can pick up their frozen empanada orders. They also plan to develop the green space located next to the building.

With help from the Brew City Match program, which offers grant funding to support small businesses, Narr says they’ll be moving forward with construction on the space, a process expected to take at least a year. They are also currently working with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) to plan the space in accordance with licensing for wholesale production with the goal of also being licensed through the USDA. If all goes well, she says, they could be up and running by early 2023.

Pachamama frozen empanadas
Pachamama frozen empanadas ready for the oven (photo: Lori Fredrich)

More Peruvian empanadas

Despite the growth, Narr says their intention is to maintain the integrity of the Pachamama brand.

“We know that frozen foods is a very competitive space,” she says. “And our goal isn’t to become a giant company. We want to maintain the hand-crafted quality of our product and keep it scratch-made.”

Narr says they anticipate hiring between 15 and 25 employees to work in the kitchen, many of which they hope will be members of the immediate community.

“It’s been a tough couple of years,” says Narr. “But we’re excited to move forward with this and bring another business to the neighborhood.”

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.