HURON — One of the businesses caught up in the maelstrom of the new construction taking place at the Highway 14 and Highway 37 intersection is Huron’s oldest fast food restaurant.
The Huron Taco John’s, the 62nd franchise nationwide in the company, opened in Huron in December 1973 and has gone through a handful of iterations since then. The latest one, which is expected to take place yet this summer, will be — as most reboots are — very subtle, with some new things to try while maintaining what has made it popular in the past.
“First is that we must gratefully thank our loyal customers,” said Kelli Salter, the Taco John’s manager. “It has been — at times — really difficult to get to us through the construction, but we have maintained our business throughout. The community support has been absolutely wonderfully.”
In fact, Salter said, one of the restaurant’s busiest days was when a condemned house was torn down directly north of the parking lot.
Removing the house made room for the new restaurant building.
“The new building will be similar to what we have now,” Salter said. “We seat about 70 people now and we’re expecting that to be about the same, plus we will add some outdoor seating as well.” Inside, some new customer friendly ordering kiosks will be added, along with some other tweaks.
The move is taking place because of the construction project,” said Brad Letcher of the South Dakota Department of Transportation.
“We (the DOT) purchased some of the frontage owned by the restaurant,” Letcher noted. “The main reason was to move the inlet for Taco John’s to the north and further away from the intersection.”
That means customers won’t need to try to make a sharp right-hand turn into the restaurant, immediately after getting through the intersection. Letcher added the the left-hand turning lane for vehicles coming down Highway 37 from the north is being lengthened as well. “The lane will now allow larger semi trailers to be completely in the turning lane,” he said.
Brett Interrman, the Chief Operating Officer of the Pentex Restaurant Group which owns the Huron Taco John’s, said that he is still working on some final details of the new construction with the City of Huron, but expects work to begin by the middle of July and take about three months to complete.
“We’ll keep the current restaurant open during construction,” he said. “We’ll be closed very briefly when we move completely into the new building, but it shouldn’t be very long.”
Salter is excited about the prospect of the new building.
“I started working at Taco John’s when I was in high school,” she said. “That was 22 years ago, back in the old ‘taco shack’ that was here first. Then in 1993, the largest part of the current building was constructed, completely renovating the longtime Mexican restaurant. In 2008, an addition was tacked on to the north side and the building has remained the same since then.
“Things will be pretty much the same,” Salter said. “We’re still going to have a large parking lot, so bigger outfits can easily park here, and with the new digital menus and ordering option, I am just really excited about things.”
Until they cut the ribbon on Taco John’s latest reboot, however, Salter reminds the community that the restaurant is still open and serving Mexican fare. “Nearly all of the work on our side of the highway is completed and it is not too difficult to reach us. Come check the progress and swing in for lunch or dinner while you are in the area.”