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Location challenges, present and future, drive Taco John's to close

Taco John's owners Jeff and Jana Johnson said their location, along with proposed construction on Highway 61, were among factors in their decision to close their restaurant. (Republican Eagle photo by Danielle Killey)

After 25 years at the corner of Main and Broad streets, Taco John's will close its doors July 15.

Jeff and Jana Johnson, who have owned and worked at Red Wing’s Taco John's for 16 years, said while sales have dipped since the opening of Taco Bell in Red Wing, that was not the only factor in the decision to close their restaurant.

One of the issues working against Taco John's is the location.

“In two and a half years we have to get upgraded again by Taco Johns’ standards and they won’t renew us in this location,” Jeff Johnson said.

The proposed redevelopment along Highway 61 would present some other challenges as well, he added.

Plans for reconstruction on Highway 61/Main Street include some changes to the road near the current Taco John’s site that might impact traffic. Construction on the road project is set to begin in the spring of 2015.

Johnson said he has looked at some other potential sites in the city, but Taco John's wouldn’t approve a site unless it is on Highway 61.

Not having the ability to add a drive-through at the current site, along with the small and difficult-to-navigate parking lot, also played a large role in the decision, Johnson said.

Making the decision more difficult, he said, was the fact that they had their best year of sales last year.

The restaurant went from a really good year to losing 30 percent of sales, Johnson said.

“We’ve been really fortunate with Red Wing,” he said. “The customers have been great, the community has been great.”

Johnson said it’s difficult to compete with some of the larger groups that own multiple restaurants.

“I just own this one little restaurant,” he said. “My wife and I, we’ve worked it 16 years.”

Jeff Johnson said they are looking at restaurant locations around the metro and have looked at other franchise opportunities aside from Taco John's. If possible, the Johnsons said they would like to stay in Red Wing.

At its June 9 meeting, the Red Wing City Council approved the purchase of the Taco John’s location. Along with the purchase agreement, City Council also approved a lease agreement which would allow the Johnsons to stay in the space up until the end of April 2015.

Engineering Director Ron Rosenthal said then that the purchase of the property allows the city to close off the two driveways from Main and Broad streets after the restaurant closes and improve the intersection.

Jana Johnson said the restaurant will remain open until July 15 or until they run out of product, whichever comes first.

-- Danielle Killey contributed to this story

John R. Russett

John Russett is a regional reporter for RiverTown Multimedia, covering a variety of issues facing RiverTown communities. Previously, he worked at the Red Wing Republican Eagle, where he reported on education as well as crime and courts. 

You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnRyanRussett


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