MORTON — Art’s Tamales, a longtime Peoria institution that has been dormant for five years, is making a comeback.
Morton businessman Todd Bonham has bought the name and recipe for the tamales, which soon will be sold at groceries and taverns, as well as online. Bonham, 58, said bringing back the foodstuff was a decision made not just by his mind but also his stomach.
"I grew up on Art's Tamales, and I couldn't get them anymore," Bonham said.
"I've had tamales all over the country but never had one as good as Art's."
Art’s Tamales debuted in 1932, homemade by Art Knutsen and sold from a pushcart in South Peoria. The business eventually changed hands a couple of times, moving to rural Metamora. By 1994, the operation was making 12,000 tamales and 300 pounds of barbecue a week. The items were sold through groceries, drive-ins, pubs and other outlets in central Illinois and beyond.
But in 2014, the Illinois Department of Agriculture in Springfield revoked Art's license because of unsanitary conditions at the plant. Though owner Dave Chinuge downplayed the severity of state allegations and vowed to reopen, the business stayed shuttered.
Bonham recently bought just the name and recipes, starting a tamale-making operation anew in Morton. Bonham, who to the Journal Star shied away from talking about himself or his businesses, called himself "an entrepreneur, kind of" — though never before in the food business.
He said the new Art's will employ about five part-time workers. He hopes to have his tamales sold at outlets sometime this month. Also, tamales will be sold via the Art's website, www.artstamales.net.
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