OKEMOS – Atomic Tacos, a food truck that started at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and has gained a fan following serving up corn tacos in the beer garden at Horrocks Farm Market, is opening a location inside the Meridian Mall food court.
Operation Bricks and Mortar is the next step, and owners Joel McGuire, his father Jeff McGuire and their partner Matt Gabs didn’t plan to take it.
Starting small, they built the first food trailer from the ground up in the driveway of Joel McGuire’s home near Perry, and parked it at places in Corona and Oslo.
Two months later, the trailer gained a following, and this past summer, Atomic Tacos, known for California-inspired tacos and burritos that blend West Coast-style food with Asian inspiration and a host of other flavors, became a regular at Horrocks.
The new location inside the food court at Meridian Mall, which opened this week, provides Atomic Tacos with a larger, fixed kitchen “about five times the size” of any of the restaurant’s trailers, and a new customer base, Joel McGuire said.
Growing in the midst of an epidemic
When the trio decided release Food truck in 2020 they simply wanted to work for themselves.
After spending about a decade as a manager at a casual restaurant chain, Joel McGuire wanted to be independent.
“I was in a situation where I was kind of tired of working for someone else and wanted to see if I could do it,” he said. “We wanted to have our own business and not be constrained by the same restrictions, as much as we have a company that governs us.”
Neither of them know much about food trucks, McGuire said. He said that when they opened their doors to a smaller crowd than he had expected, he gave them all pause.
“We opened in Chihuahua County, and it was really slow and we were really worried about our decision,” McGuire said.
Within a few months, word of mouth and consistent quality changed that.
“Our sales went from being very low, then doubled, then doubled again, and then doubled again,” said Joel McGuire. “We got really popular very quickly.”
He said that even before Joel McGuire noticed a few empty restaurants in the Meridian Mall food court, they already knew they needed a bigger kitchen to accommodate more orders.
Crunchy employee recovers after being assaulted in East Lansing; The police are still investigating
Buddy’s Pizza shuts down its Delta Township location
Grand Ledge School Board Nominee Files Civil Rights Complaint Against District
Opening in the mall
“I’ve always loved going to the mall,” said Joel McGuire. “I grew up in the era that was like, you go to the mall after school to hang out.”
Atomic Tacos already had two regular locations, at Owosso and Horrocks. Then McGuire saw a few empty dining spots in the Meridian Mall food court and had to inquire.
McGuire and his co-owners watched the flow of traffic in the mall and asked his management to tour an available space in the food court. They walked away, convinced that a site should be opened there.
“It’s five times larger than my largest trailer,” McGuire said. “I could put on a lot of products. It made sense for us to open up here.”
The mall’s website was launched on Monday. McGuire said the grand opening will happen after its fewer than ten employees adjust to the workflow.
“Because it’s a bigger kitchen, we want to make sure we have streamlined and quick services is our goal, so we want to make sure we can perform to our standards,” he said.
The menu will look similar to what customers typically see in an Atomic Tacos food trailer, with tacos packed with meats like braised beef, chicken, and pork, as well as burritos, loaded potatoes, corn, beans, shaved ice, and churros.
Contact Rachel Greco at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @GrecoatLSJ .