Feliz Aniversario

Taco?Hut Celebrates 45th Anniversary

Taco Hut is celebrating its 45th anniversary since opening in 1972 at 203 E. Third St. in Jamestown. From left are Heidi Barlow, waitress and cook, Jim Mason, owner, and Alecia Spontaneo, cook, waitress, bartender and server. P-J photo by Gavin Paterniti

A downtown fixture in local Mexican-American cuisine is celebrating yet another milestone this year.

Having thrived at its 203 E. Third St. location for nearly half a century, Taco Hut is commemorating its 45th anniversary as one of Jamestown’s premier dining experiences for multiple generations of patrons.

The restaurant was opened by Jim Mason in 1972, who has owned the business for the duration of its existence. Having lived in California prior to opening the business, Mason said he was familiar with Mexican cuisine and its nearly universal appeal. Due to this knowledge, he said he knew that a Mexican restaurant could succeed even in a city of strong Swedish and Italian heritage.

“I understood about Mexican food because everybody out there (in California) was eating it,” Mason recalled. “When I was getting ready to open the restaurant here, the person I was buying my equipment from said I should probably consider doing Swedish or Italian food because there weren’t that many Mexican people in Jamestown. But I knew people would like it, so I threw some recipes together and got our spices and menus made up and just started doing it. And we’ve been busy ever since.”

Initially, Taco Hut occupied a fraction of the space it currently utilizes. What started out as a small enterprise comprised of a single dining room with a few tables and nine employees has expanded to a four-room restaurant with 33 employees. He said the success the restaurant has experienced behind the counter is owed to the fact that he has always been open-minded and willing to listen to the suggestions of his employees.

Pointing out a photo hanging inside the restaurant that depicts an exhausted Mason following his first day of business in 1972, the owner said Taco Hut has received strong and steady support from a very loyal customer base from day one.

“The support we’ve had has been amazing,” he said. “My customers are dedicated and many of them we see very regularly. We’ve become a very big part of Jamestown’s culture, and I get some great results and patronage from the community; and that’s what makes it work.”

In addition to the dining rooms, Taco Hut also houses a basement area containing office and storage space, as well as a delivery ramp that allows food shipments to be delivered directly from the truck to the underground freezers. Mason — who has expertise as an electrician, tool and die maker, and carpenter — also has a work station in the basement that allows him to perform general maintenance and make repairs to the restaurant’s equipment as necessary.

With all the success he experienced in Jamestown, Mason said he very briefly toyed with the idea of expanding the Taco Hut brand into other areas such as Warren and Erie, but ultimately decided he wanted to focus all of his attention on serving the community that has supported him through the decades.

“It’s always been here (in Jamestown), and it always will be here,” he said. “Sometimes I come in here on a Sunday, when we’re closed, and I sit and think, ‘I’m pretty happy with this.’ And I am. I’m very proud of what has happened here, both as the owner and through the assistance I’ve given to and received from my employees. We really are a family here, and we all take care of each other. And that’s how we are; it just rolls like that.”

Taco Hut is now operating under summer hours, in which the restaurant is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The restaurant is always closed on Sundays.

For more information, call 488-0226 or find Taco Hut on Facebook.