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San Diego woman turns time-honored family recipes into growing salsa business

Posted at 7:14 PM, Apr 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-05 09:46:58-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — What if you could turn a skill you learned from your family into a living? That’s what Ruth Murillo has done with Ruth’s No. 5 Salsa.

As she pours some into a bowl, she refers to her salsa roja as the one that started it all. It’s a classic red salsa brimming with the authentic flavors of Sonora, Mexico.

“This is the one that my mom taught me which since I can remember I was in love with it,” Ruth says.

Now, a throng of loyal customers feels the same way. To understand how Ruth made it to the charming storefront in the Old Town Urban Market, you have to go back generations.

Ruth can trace her recipes back to her great-grandmother Nana Pancha, who handed them down to Ruth's grandmother, Isabel. Isabel taught them to Ruth's mom, Guadalupe. Ruth stays true to tradition, but also adds a personal touch, like the avocado in her salsa verde.

“The green one started because I love enchiladas.”

She says at first she made the salsas just for family and friends. Then came a little encouragement.

“It was a friend of mine that told me. I gave him the salsa and he said why don't you bottle it.” Ruth says, “I had to google what "bottle it" meant and that's when it clicked -- hmmm, let me do this.”

She started out at the Pacific Beach Farmers Market five years ago.

“People laughed at me because I was with one little cooler. I think it was within a month that I went from my little cooler that we take out to the beach to buying an industrial one.”

From there, Ruth expanded to farmers markets in North Park, Little Italy, Hillcrest and Leucadia, going from selling about 40 containers in a day to hundreds.

When asked if she could believe how much Ruth’s No. 5 has grown, Ruth responded, “No, never, never. I started the business because I wanted to bring my flavors. I wanted people to understand this is who we are. This is what we eat in our home.”

Ruth just opened the shop in Old Town in January. She says no matter how big the business becomes the key is maintaining quality.

“I still go buy my own tomatoes. I still choose the tomatillos that I'm going to use. I still go see the mangos.”

Ruth's now has 7 salsas from her classic red to the popular mango. She says the most challenging part of her entrepreneurial journey has been making choices.

“I think one of the hardest things that I have done is to know the decisions of the business, am I doing this the right way or the wrong way.”

She says other vendors have been generous about offering advice. She also got help from the San Diego Markets Vendor 101 course. But it's her family from husband Robert to sister Monica and now her kids who are invaluable, helping with everything from marketing to cooking. She says she’s not sure how much the business can grow, but one thing will always remain the same.

“All I want to do is if it grows more, I'm giving you the consumer one of the best salsas that you can have.”

In case you're wondering why it's called Ruth's No. 5, Ruth says she loves Chanel No. 5 perfume and hopes her salsa will become as classic.

You can also order Ruth’s No. 5 online for pickup and delivery and now she's working on how to ship it long-distance.