Tortilla plant being built in Geismar

Two former top executives with Zapp’s Potato Chips are going into the business of making tortillas and have started work on a $2 million plant in Geismar.

Hola Nola Foods, founded by Rod Olson and Kevin Holden, is building an 11,475-square-foot plant on Industrial Drive. The company plans to open the plant in June and will produce fresh flour and corn tortillas for local restaurants and supermarkets.

“We did some researching and it ends up that there are three states in the Union that don’t have tortilla plants: Wyoming, Louisiana and Mississippi,” said Olson, who recently retired as president of Zapp’s, a job he had held since founder Ron Zappe died in July 2010.

Holden, who served as Olson’s second in command, also recently retired from the Gramercy chip company.

Olson said Hola Nola is taking a “Model T approach” toward making tortillas.

“They’re not produced by high-speed, modern equipment, but they’re not quite hand-rolled,” he said. “It produces something with a different texture and elasticity, making a tastier product.”

While Louisiana may not have a tortilla plant, it doesn’t have a shortage of Mexican restaurants. Olson said there are more than 500 Mexican restaurants within a 100-mile radius of Geismar.

“We’re looking at what Zapp’s did in making a better-tasting potato chip,” he said. “If we succeed at that, it should be a neat fit because people in Louisiana are strong supporters of local products.”

No local grocery stores or restaurants have committed yet to selling Hola Nola tortillas.

“We haven’t met with any resistance,” Olson said. “But everyone wants to see the product first.”

Hola Nola anticipates hiring 5 to 10 employees this year, but the company forecasts rapid growth. The company anticipates having 50 workers by 2015.

“We’re excited moving forward,” Olson said. “We hope this is both fun and profitable.”