Tamales at the Heart of Community
Posted by Seattle University Alumni Association on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 at 5:19 PM PDT
Osbaldo Hernandez, ’12, came to Seattle University as an undocumented student majoring in Public Administration. His education was put in jeopardy, however, when his Visa was denied in fall quarter of 2011, barring him entry to the United States for 10 years. Upon hearing this, President Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J., requested that professors be accommodating of Hernandez’s now online education and arranged for the law school to provide him with pro bono services. Within a week, the decision was reversed, and Hernandez returned—Green Card in hand.
Today, Hernandez is still in Seattle, and has been busy running Frelard Tamales, an authentic Mexican tamale restaurant that he and his husband, Dennis Ramey, opened in 2018. They use Hernandez’s multi-generational family recipe from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, with his mom making tamales and his dad working at the restaurant.
In all his work, his Jesuit education remains close at heart. “I’ve always taken the teachings of a just and humane world and being a holistic human being. Since I left Seattle U, my education has always shifted me into taking any kind of opportunity where I was serving others.” For Hernandez, Frelard Tamales has been a key way to do so. “We have a little sign on the window that can be easily seen that says if a customer needs a meal, they can just ask for one.” With the onset of COVID-19 last year, Frelard Tamales began giving hundreds of free meals to nurses at the local Swedish hospitals and others impacted by COVID, and to this day, that policy remains in place.
Beyond sharing free meals, Frelard Tamales has helped support the livelihood of other small businesses. In the wake of Pike Place Market’s closure, Hernandez realized that many local farmers who usually sold flowers no longer had a place to do so. Frelard Tamales partnered with a local florist and began offering a bouquet of flowers for $15 to its customers—and the flowers are free if the order is going to a first responder or health care worker. Now that flower season has returned, so have the bouquets. “We just started a week ago. That was our first week with Thai Thao Farms. In the summer we add Woodinville Valley Farms, so we have the same partners as last year,” said Hernandez.
In addition to flowers, Hernandez and Ramey have supported 24 women and minority-owned businesses during the pandemic. They curate items from these businesses and create gift packs for customers to buy. They’ve been popular add-ons to tamale orders and have offered these businesses much needed income in difficult times.
To Hernandez and Ramey, it is all about giving back to a community that built them up years ago from their humble beginnings. “When we started our business, we would literally meet people in a church parking lot in Ballard and exchange cash for food—it looked like it was a drug deal. People trusted us and it grew from that little parking lot to a shop in Green Lake,” said Hernandez.
Their motto, “Kindness. Community. Cultura.” is at the heart of what Frelard Tamales stands for and how Hernandez and Ramey live their lives. Consider supporting this Redhawk-owned local business dedicated to service and a just and humane world. While you are there, enjoy what Seattle Magazine called, “The Most Satisfying Tamale in Seattle.”
You can find Frelard Tamales and dozens more alumni-owned businesses on our new Alumni Business Directory. If you’d like your business added to the directory, email Stephanie Jamieson.