photo: Store front of Tejas Dulces de Sevilla in Plaza del Plan, on the backside of the Church of El Salvador / ANTONIO PÉREZ
A FAMILY RECIPE IS THE EXCUSE TO OPEN A SMALL STORE IN ONE OF THE PLAZAS MORE LOADED WITH HISTORY AND LITERARY REFERENCES IN SEVILLE. DOTED ALONG THE TEXT, THE POETIC PROSE OF SEVILLIAN POET LUIS CERNUDA WILL REMIND US IN “THE SHOPS,” ONE OF THE CHAPTERS OF HIS BOOK “OCNOS,” HOW THE SAME PLACE WAS ALMOST 100 YEARS AGO.
“Those little shops were in the Plaza del Pan, behind the church of the Saviour, where the Galicians parked, seated on the ground or leaning against the wall, their empty sacks on their shoulders and a handful of cords in their fist, waiting for a trunk or a piece of furniture to move. The shops were tucked into the church’s wall, some defended by a little glass door, others with their shutters wide open on the plaza, and closed only at night.
In those little shops on the Plaza del Pan every one of the objects on display was still something unique, and therefore precious, crafted with care, sometimes right there in the back room, in accordance with a tradition passed from generation to generation, from master to apprentice, and
it expressed or strove to express in an ingenuous way something fine and distinctive.”
THE VENDORS GREET THE PUBLIC in passing with enthusiasm. Almost all of the stores are small, and it doesn’t matter what they sell. With the stores of la Plaza del Pan, on the backside of the Salvador Church, you experience something unique and special, like what was written around 1940 by the Sevillian poet, Luis Cernuda, in the book Ocnos, which we have reproduced above. Memories and experiences from his childhood, which are collected by the poet over this plaza and its stores, fill some of the pages of his writing. Today, we can add the story of a family business that renews its tradition: Tejas Dulces de Sevilla.
NEIGHBORS AND TOURISTS from Europe, America, and other parts of the world stroll through the Plaza del Pan (officially called Plaza Jesús de la Pasión), in the dead center of Seville and in passing stores where you find welcoming Sevillians. There is everything. Butterfly Sevilla is where they sell exclusive complements and accessories; Santana Material Fotográfico is the reference for many photography professionals. A. Fiances is the store that always smells of the incense they sell, and further down is the store where many women go to find the dress of their dreams, the famous Pronovias.
“Beside their painful superhuman labor (that of the bearers) with no shelter but the pavement where they were parked, the aristocratic merchants seemed to belong to another world. But they also subtly belong together, like vestiges of an vanished day and age”
AT NUMBER 13, Tejas Dulces de Sevilla became established in November of 2012. In between Cuchillería Sevilla, a knife store, and Natalia, a jewelry store, we find everyday a 33-year-old girl, Lola Algarrada, who greets the passersby with a permanent smile, handing out a small delicacy to whomever walks past. Behind her and inside the store, you see packets of what seem to be thin cookies by blue glass products. In front of her there is a vintage distribution bicycle and a large container with its logo on top. There are also tables and chairs from which pedestrians can enjoy from the day in such a historical plaza.
“What were those merchants selling? In the dark rear of the shop you might just catch a glimpse of something gleaming in a display case, a vase with complex patterns of gems and filigree and the purplish teardrops of some long coral earrings.”
THAT DELICACY IS THE ARTISANAL ELABORATION of a family recipe, preserved by Lola Largo, mother of Lola Algarrada and of her elder brother, José Antonio. The three of them, occasionally assisted by their younger sister, Gracia María, share the management of the business. José Antonio and his mother take care of the bakery and Lola of the shop. The tejas, which bear their name due to their resemblance with the ceramic curved tiles so typical of Seville’s rooftops, come in pistachio, coconut, and almond flavor. Almond being the most popular of all. The family believes that “the selection of the ingredients, the care in the elaboration of the dough, the temperature control of the oven and our passion for the kitchen and confectionery make the flavor of Tejas Dulces de Sevilla so unique. It is the mother that takes on the baking. Each day, the tejas arrive in boxes from the family’s home. The secret recipe has been in the family for more than 30 years. For Semana Santa and Christmas they have to bake even more, seeing as those are the days of the year filled with most sales. Within the family, they also have memories of making the tejas in their birthday celebrations.
BUT TEJAS DULCES DE SEVILLA has not always been a store with sweet cookies. The family opened the store in October 2012 with only glass products, such as jars or glasses, blue or transparent, but shortly after, on November 1st, the started with the tejas. That was when Lola, who is a professional graphic designer and photographer, worked on the visual design to create a sign and logo that gave it a unique personality to this cute store.
WITH HER FRIENDLY EXPRESSION, short hair, and dark eyes, Lola, who tends to the store normally in the mornings, explains that things are planned for the long term. “It was about coming out of a tough time as a family. I had little work, and my brother José Antonio, who is a historian, as well, and my mother made the cookies. So we told ourselves, look, let’s make this on a larger scale and sell them,” she recalls.
WHY THE PLAZA DEL PAN? Because it is one of the two or three plazas with the most historical value in Sevilla, and most importantly, because it is so pedestrian. The pedestrian aspect makes offering cookies much more appealing. The store needs to provide a special experience to create value for their product. Like Lola said, the cookies are “a luxury to treat oneself.” Its not excessively expensive, but its not something cheap. Chatting with the clients and the neighbors
that pass habitually, Lola Pérez is employed by the Algarrada family to work at the store in the afternoons. She explains that her favorite part to the job is when a passerby likes them, and buys them. “I like to see the people chose their favorite flavor to enjoy at home,” she explains.
RESPONDING TO if it has cost a lot of work to open the store during the economiccrisis that affects Spain, Lola says that, “A business is hard to open no matter when. And you just have to work hard and that’s that.” The effort shared by the whole family, put into this unique store, helps to strengthen their family’s relationship. Although there are tables outside on nice days, people normally don’t enter the store due to its limited size. In the future, they would like to have more points of sale, or at least have a mixed store, like a place of reunion to also have a coffee. Tejas Dulces de Sevilla achieves their mission: the excellence of their product, as the perfect accompaniment to the experience of walking through a plaza in the dead center of Seville, behind the adored Salvador Church.
“But in their seclusion, in their stillness, shopkeeper and porter alike were descended from the merchants and artisans of the East, and as the day wound down outside their door, the customer, in order to take home the amphora or the tapestry they’d just bought, had to seek out amid the bustle of the square the person big and strong enough to haul the merchandise.”