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Porto Named Woman of the Year

First published in the May 14 print issue of the Glendale News Press.

For being a “successful small business owner who tirelessly — and I emphasize ‘tirelessly’ — gives back to her community,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger chose Beatriz “Betty” Porto as the Woman of the Year representing the 5th District this year.
The last name will be familiar as the namesake to the storied Los Angeles-area bakery and cafe, Porto’s.
“Who’s heard of that place?” Barger quipped Monday, introducing her honoree at the ceremony held at the Sheraton Grand Los Angeles.
Porto, who lives in Montrose, nor her family’s institution needed the introduction. For her shared work in continuing the family legacy, Porto was in 2005 named the Latin Business Woman of the Year by the National Latina Business Women Association; in 2008, named Woman of the Year by the Glendale Latino Association; and in 2019 awarded with the Elizabeth Burns Lifetime Achievement Award by the California Restaurant Association.
In 2016, the website Yelp hailed Porto’s — which has locations in Glendale, Burbank, Buena Park, Downey, Northridge and West Covina — as the No. 1 spot to eat in the United States.
This year represented the 37th that the Board of Supervisors has recognized women of the year from each of the five districts, in addition to a group of “at-large” honorees. Adela Garcia, an alumna of Glendale Community College, delivered the keynote this week.
Supervisors are tasked with selecting recipients for their contributions to provoking social and economic change.
“Their commitment to their family business has continued to this day,” Barger said of the Porto children, highlighting that they reopened for carryout early into the pandemic and began offering frozen bake-at-home options. “Their business remained committed to retaining their hundreds of employees, giving workers the stability they needed in the midst of so much uncertainty.”
The business also routinely donated batches of baked goods to emergency responders during the pandemic. Meanwhile, it also continued its usual contributions of food and funds, including to Glendale Healthy Kids, the American Red Cross, the Boys and Girls Club of Burbank, Giving Children Hope in Buena Park, AltaMed, Food Help in Downey, the Alex Theatre and a number of veterans groups. Every day, Porto’s also donates its leftover food to Union Rescue Mission.
“It’s about coming from humble beginnings but never forgetting where you came from,” Barger said. “I believe that is truly what makes Betty and Porto’s so amazing is that you have not forgotten where you came from, and giving back is truly such an incredible thing that you do.”

Photo courtesy office of Kathryn Barger
Betty Porto, of Porto’s fame, expresses gratitude to Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who selected Porto as the Woman of the Year for the 5th District.

Barger lauded Porto, who is officially vice president and director of community relations, and her siblings for continuing the business empire and “carrying on the legacy of her amazing mother, Rosa,” whom she described as a “beautiful example of the American dream.” Rosa Porto and her family had immigrated here from Cuba, where husband Raul Sr. had previously been imprisoned in a labor camp. While raising their children, Rosa Porto launched her first store in Echo Park, laying the seeds for those children — Betty, Raul Jr. and Margarita — to eventually take the reins.
“Look what they created, two immigrants from Cuba!” Betty Porto exclaimed Monday, emotionally recalling her mother’s story.
Barger said the Porto’s story was “a beautiful example of the American dream.”
“The family left Castro’s Cuba with nothing but Rosa’s love of baking in 1971,” Barger said. “Their can-do spirit built a multigenerational family business of bakeries that has a loyal clientele here in Los Angeles County and, quite frankly, around the world.”
Attendees at Monday’s ceremony were treated to a signature box of the bakery’s goods at each table — with to-go bags if needed.
“We all know that when you see the iconic yellow box that something delicious is inside,” Barger said. “That is the charm of the Porto’s bakery brand. We have all stood in lines for their delicious, affordable treats and they are, believe me, worth every minute of waiting in line. If I have one more of my cities ask me if they can have a Porto’s, I’m just going to refer them to you, Betty.”
Betty Porto, on the day after Mother’s Day, fondly recalled her own for guiding her through her childhood and into adulthood. She took on her role at the business after earning her master’s degree in political science from UCLA in 1982 — education being an emphasis from her mom.
“In my house, the commission was my mother and the supervisor was my mother,” she said. “People will ask me all the time, ‘Did you have a mentor?’ My mom was the one who taught me what to do and what not to do. I’m here standing, representing the family, but if you think about it, it’s really the story of two immigrants who came with big dreams and hopes. They worked at it. They were not waiting for handouts. They just set out to work hard.”

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