SAN LEANDRO, CALIF. — Robert Berber Jr., who helped build Mi Rancho into one of the nation’s largest tortilla makers, died Jan. 2. He was 81 years old.

Robert Berber, Mi Rancho
Robert Berber Jr.

Mr. Berber Jr. was responsible for building Mi Rancho into the company it is today, manufacturing more than 1.3 billion tortillas each year. Born and raised in Los Angeles, he moved to the Bay Area where, in 1954, he and his father, Robert Berber Sr., purchased an Oakland Mexican grocery and panaderia noted for making corn and flour tortillas and bread. Mr. Berber Jr. assumed sole ownership of the store in 1974, eventually elevating Mi Rancho into a national tortilla brand.

Mi Rancho’s corn tortillas are made from whole kernel corn that is cooked and steeped with lime for up to 10 hours. The corn is then stone-ground with lava stones for a unique texture and flavor. Mi Rancho also uses local ingredients grown in California, and it offers organic, non-bioengineered corn and flour tortillas.

Mi Rancho now is managed by Robert’s son, Manuel Berber, who has been president of the company since 1992.

“My father will be sorely missed by the Mi Rancho family and in the community,” Manuel Berber said. “However, we intend to keep his legacy alive by continuing to use the same time-honored methods and whole ingredients we have used for the past 60 years, when my father and grandfather established the family business. We will continue to maintain our commitment to superior quality and exquisite taste as the company passes into the hands of my two sons, the fourth generation of Berbers.”

Robert is survived by his children, Helena, Manuel, Armando and, Mario; daughter-in-law Carol and son-in-law John Kahle; grandchildren, Andrew, Alex, Ashley and Anthony; siblings, Richard, Bill, Lolita, David, Carlos, Cecelia and Robbie; and companion, Alice Marez.