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Becoming an entrepreneur and starting a business during a pandemic has taught Karina Saldivar some valuable lessons while deepening her appreciation for local support of small businesses.

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The latter has been vital for the success of her business, Amor y Pan. The bakery and store promotes healthy living with products that appeal to fans of keto, vegan and paleo lifestyles. A look inside her stylish shop just off Expressway 77/83 features an array of other delicious offerings.

There’s low carb conchitas, a perennial Mexican pan dulce favorite, to go with chocoflan and carrot cake cupcakes. Her “rock stars” are tortillas consisting of almond flour and sea salt. It all looks good as does everything in Saldivar’s store. She’s delighted to be part of what she calls “a new momentum in Brownsville.” Saldivar sees her hometown as being in a transition to being a bigger city with more opportunities.

“I feel like sometimes we’re underrated,” she said of the Rio Grande Valley. “What we’re seeing right now is all the entrepreneurs here who are doing wonderful things. I love it and I love being part of it.”

It was May 2019 when Saldivar started to build out the site of what would become Amor y Pan. Going through all the construction and renovation work and then dealing with the barrage of city inspections and permits was tough. Finally, she got to open on March 2, 2020, the eve as it turned out of the COVID-19 era.

“I finally get to my dream and then I have to deal with that, just like everyone else did,” she said. “I wasn’t going to just quit.”

Healthy versions of conchitas are available at Amor y Pan.
Healthy versions of conchitas are available at Amor y Pan.

Saldivar shifted gears.

“I went hard on social media,” she said of the spring 2020 adjustments. “We started doing curbside, we got really active on what’s up, (a popular app), and people liked what we have to offer.

“We started seeing people line up to our door. I felt so grateful and appreciative that people were willing to do that for us,” Saldivar said. “It made me see that there are people who understand the importance of small businesses and were willing to do that for us.”

Confidence grew as her business got established and the community at large felt more comfortable being out and about. Recognition of her business received a major honor and $20,000 in funding. Amor Y Pan was one of five local winners of the 2021StartUp Texas Pitch Summit.

Almond flour tortillas are the "rock stars" at Amor y Pan.
Almond flour tortillas are the “rock stars” at Amor y Pan.

The virtual spring 2021 event was hosted and organized by the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation. During the summit, Saldivar made an enthusiastic presentation to four judges. They were impressed by her pitch and named Amor y Pan one of the winners, with the grant to help expand her operations.

“Winning this tells me we’re on the right track to making our business bigger,” Saldivar said. “It validates what we’re doing.”

For Saldivar, Amor y Pan is more than a business. It’s helping people in her community live a healthier lifestyle. Those looking for gluten-free breads and sweets with less sugar and fewer carbs while not sacrificing on taste will find a great outlet at Amor y Pan.

Saldivar raves about her almond flour tortillas – her best seller – for providing what many locals consider an essential food item and being able to enjoy it without the downsides of their flour counterparts.

“This is something that’s good for Brownville and the Valley,” she said of the store’s keto, vegan and paleo products. “We aim to fit into all three lifestyles, so that makes us unique.”