Bill's Market in Tempe closing its doors after six decades

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The market has been a staple of the community since 1961.

TEMPE, Ariz. — The secret to staying in business for more than 60 years, apparently is to do something better than anyone else until your reputation becomes a thing of legend.

That’s what has kept Bill’s Market thriving in Tempe since 1961.

“Chorizo. That’s our biggest seller,” said Bobby Figueroa, co-owner of Bill’s Market.

For 61 years Bill’s has been the go-to place for chorizo in Arizona, for those who were in the know.

“I mean, you can’t find better Chorizo in the state,” said one customer waiting in line for Bill’s to open.

Bobby Figueroa and his wife, Mary, have operated the family market since taking it over from Mary’s Uncle Bill in 1984. 

Bobby runs the market, a throwback to neighborhood markets of yesteryear. The store has just about everything on its shelves, harkening to the times before supermarkets.

Mary is the chef behind the chorizo.

“Food is love and you have to really like to cook, and I’m a good cook,” said Mary Figueroa with a chuckle.

With roughly four decades overseeing the chorizo production, it would appear that she isn’t just boasting. She carefully follows a family recipe and has taught her children and grandchildren.

Lately, lines have formed outside Bill’s Market hours before they open. Hundreds of people – many of whose grandparents introduced them to the chorizo – wait for hours for the chance to pick up a five-pound bucket of the spicy sausage.

They know that time is running out.

“It’s time to move on and enjoy retirement a little bit instead of working,” Bobby said with a sad smile.

“In all honesty, we’ve given it a good 38-year run, my husband and I,” Mary said. “But I’ve been doing it for 40 years with my Uncle Bill and my father.”

After 61 years, Bill’s Market will close its doors on Saturday. 

Bob and Mary said they have 700 pounds of chorizo to sell and if the past few days are any indication, it will be long gone before noon.

“He’s [Bobby] always helped the community,” said one customer waiting for his chorizo. “It’s not just he was here to try to make money. He was a big supporter of the community and as you can see the community is here now to support him.”

On Friday morning, another long line wrapped around the block, filled with folks hoping for one last taste.

The reputation of Bill’s Market, the Figueroa’s, and their famous chorizo will live on in the community with stories being passed from generation to generation.

Figueroa’s grandchildren intend to one day take over the business, focusing more online. Until then, Bobby and Mary will keep the recipe safe in the family.

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