Can’t get enough tacos

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Karina Ramírez/DRC
The front doors of the new Fuzzy's Taco Shop at 2412 S. Interstate 35E frontage road in Denton.
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Fuzzy’s opens second location in Denton

Two months ago, Fuzzy’s Taco Shop opened its second restaurant in Denton, becoming the newest addition to the Fuzzy’s family.

The shop at 2412 S. Interstate 35E became the taco chain’s 67th location. It officially opened June 19.

Mel Knight, one of the restaurant’s owners, and Ashtin Slovak, the new shop’s general manager, said they are very pleased with the performance of the newest site and that the new shop has exceeded expectations.

“The community has really adopted us so far, and we’re looking forward to continuing,” Knight said.

The new 3,500-square-foot shop also was renovated. It used to be the former Cafe Italia. The shop now includes new paint, a small meeting room, a large fish tank and an outside porch.

“I was pretty pumped to see it when he [Knight] told me this is where we were going to go next, especially with the traffic from I-35, the ability to get this side of town,” Slovak said. “It’s pretty exciting to get a different side of town, because everyone’s seen the downtown store but not everyone can get there consistently.”

Longtime Fuzzy’s patrons Mark and Laurie Tjosvold and their children visited the new location for the first time Thursday. The couple said they liked the new location and found it more conveniently close to their home. When asked, “Why do you Fuzzy’s?” The plain and simple answer: “The tacos. It’s all about the tacos,” the Tjosvolds said.

 

Fuzzy’s hits the ground running

The first Fuzzy’s restaurant, established by a Fort Worth chef on Berry Street in 2001, ran for two years before selling the concept to father and son, Alan and Chuck Bush and partners, in 2003. Four years later, another restaurant opened in Fort Worth, followed by the third in downtown Denton. Now the Fuzzy’s brand has extended to 11 states, including Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin.

As one of the initial members of the ownership group brought in by the Bushes, Knight has been with the company from the beginning, bringing with him his years of experience in the restaurant industry, which has continued to help shape and develop the unique Fuzzy’s brand.

The new location off I-35E has 30 employees in full-time and part-time positions.

Knight said five employees came over from the Denton Square location that is about four miles away. Slovak has been with Fuzzy’s for the past four years and could not imagine working someplace else, she said.

“We pay very close attention to people, [and] we make it a point to be concerned with the well-being of our employees,” Knight said.

Slovak said she is not worried about the competition between stores.

“Both stores have done very well since we’ve opened,” she said. “We’re a family — we have a lot of people we push towards them, they push towards us — we want to support each other, and all Fuzzy’s.”

Both Slovak and Knight spend time at the two locations, transporting products and reinforcing local businesses, they said.

Like the Berry Street location near the TCU campus in Fort Worth, many Fuzzy’s stores occupy locations in or near college towns. And like most college towns, it believes in a little down time beginning with an outdoor patio, an open bar and live music. “Just a little bit of Denton flair. Denton’s one of those towns that likes to support the arts, and we like to do that as well,” Knight said.

 

The ‘Fuzzy’s feel’

Fuzzy’s offers low-cost meals, but not at low quality. Fuzzy’s prides itself on being family oriented, as well as health oriented.

“Fresh food at a good price,” Slovak and Knight said. “You can’t get the meals that we have and feed a family under $20 like we can — with good food.”

Fuzzy’s online menu clearly displays its menu items’ nutritional information.

“We want to put good, quality food out there, we want people to know what they’re eating, and that — especially these days, with everyone being worried about food allergies — we like to be able to accommodate people, so they can get what they want within the boundaries that they have,” Slovak said.

Customers have access to a full menu all day, every day.

“Even people who are just getting off work come to get dinner, and they’re sitting here with city of Denton people who come in right before their shifts to get their breakfast tacos,” Slovak said. “It’s pretty cool to see the differences in people’s preferences in the morning.”

Fuzzy’s services includes catering and also has meeting rooms for group gatherings.

 

The Fuzzy’s family and community

Since coming to Denton, one of the things the city and the business have had in common is their ability to bring people together, Slovak said.

“Denton’s been fantastic for us. We’re pretty close with all the businesses downtown, and we have great partnerships with Texas Woman’s University and the University of North Texas and have for years.”

Through the partnerships, Fuzzy’s provides campus coupon books, works with the Denton Independent School District to do favor cards that provide different discounts and has also partnered with United Way to offer the Live United discount card, with which the restaurant offers a 10 percent discount.

At the new location, Fuzzy’s continues with its famous magnet ads showcasing local businesses. Knight said the idea for the signs, of which he is proud, began when an electrician placed a magnet on the venting hood in one of the other stores. Customers would come in and asked how much it would cost them to place a magnet, for which he had certain conditions.

“You can’t sell tacos, for one. If you want a good space, you have to get me a sign pretty fast, and you have to eat with me three times per week,” he said. “That is how much it is going to cost you.”

 

Franchising opportunities

Denton’s locations are both corporate stores, but Fuzzy’s offers prospective small business owners many opportunities for success, as the majority of Fuzzy’s restaurants are now franchisee operated.

“We want every store to stand on its own when it’s opened and do the sales it needs to do, to not have our franchisees lose any money on their venture toward making their restaurant profitable,” Knight explained. “From the franchisee standpoint, it’s very much up to them, to find a location, and then we support that on our advice on the economics on the site.”

Each store has its own look and feel.

The Fuzzy’s brand continues to expand. A new Fuzzy’s location opened in Dallas’ Deep Ellum two weeks ago and another is scheduled to open Aug. 20 in the Corpus Christi area.

Slovak said the new Denton shop is available to everyone.

“If you want to come have a beer, if you want to come feed your family, come on, let us take care of you,” she said. “Let us put a little Fuzzy’s in your life.”

BRIEANNA CASEY and DENNIS BARBEE are students at Texas Woman’s University and part of The Lasso staff, the student-run newspaper.


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