Taco John's restaurant opened for business in Cherokee in November 1996, and has been owned and operated by Doug and Val Woods from the start. The year 2005 saw some major remodeling in the fall, and Val Woods feels that this remodeling, in addition to the mild weather in January and the presence of the Movie Gallery video store as a new neighbor, has led to an increase in customers.
The remodeling was at the behest of the Taco John's corporate office, and will affect all 431 Taco John's Restaurants in the United States.
The corporation has a specific design, called the Taco 7 because all restaurants are expected to have the new design adopted by the year 2007. There are some differences between large market franchise design and small market, but the small market franchisees, such as Cherokee, may elect to do some aspects of the large market designs if they choose.
The corporate office did not pay for this remodeling, though, nor did they provide a crew to do the work. Work on the project began on Aug. 23, 2005, and all the work was done by area contractors. Grundman-Hicks was the general contractor for the project, and sub-contractors included Champion Electric, Mongan Painting, and Steve Linn from Cherokee; Heartwood Cabinetry from Marcus; and Roling Signs from Sioux Rapids.
Jarco, a company from Sioux City, was responsible for the interesting stucco-like red exterior of the building, done by using a product called Drivit. Woods said this work was a very interesting process to watch.
She is very glad that the store did not have to close during the remodeling, with the exception of one night when they had to close early because the pop machine had to be removed. She thanked customers for being so patient with the entire process, and does not feel they lost any customers and have, in fact, gained new ones.
Taco John's has seating for 52 inside, (no change since remodeling) , but a little over half of their business comes through the drive-up window. Val also said they have 28 parking spaces, but that few people realize here is that much parking.
Among the interior changes have been the addition of "pendant" lighting over the booths, some new countertops, and a salsa bar, where customers can add salsa and/or other toppings to their food. A new ceiling was also put in, with recessed lighting. "Pepper red" is one of the thematic colors, though Woods is quick to point out that wasn't her idea. New signage and the color yellow were also added as a means of grabbing the customer's attention.
Woods says "business is very good" and was quite appreciative of the crew of employees she has, including Manager Deb Hyndman, who has been there since Day One, assistant manager Sarah Taylor, and Karla Cates.
Taco John's group of workers, says Woods, "is a great staff and crew."
Woods is happy that the restaurant gets to work with the local schools on special programs and mentioned in particular the "Tacos for A's" program at the Middle School, where students who receive A's on their report cards receive coupons for free tacos, with a maximum of three tacos.
Exterior changes include the addition of some "gooseneck" lamps to provide better lighting for the parking and entrance, as well a new design and more color (pepper red again) .
Woods has always felt that the business has had a good location, but that she felt the building , prior to the remodeling job, did not stand out and attract customers. She feels that the building is more attractive and more noticeable from the highway now, and that this is another factor in increased business.