CHEYENNE – It seems like everyone in Wyoming has a personal story involving Taco John’s.
As company leaders, government officials and residents celebrated the Cheyenne-based fast-food restaurant’s 50th anniversary Tuesday, they shared stories, jokes and gratitude at Taco John’s headquarters on the city’s west edge.
Those in attendance included Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr, Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Buchanan, former Cheyenne mayors Bill Nation and Don Erickson and three current City Council members.
The chain, and its trademark “West-Mex”-style food, was founded by John Turner with the help of Cheyenne real-estate broker James Woodson and travel trailer manufacturer Harold Holmes in the summer of 1968.
Holmes converted one of his campers into a food trailer called Taco House to serve Cheyenne Frontier Days visitors that year. The effort was successful enough that Woodson and Holmes bought the franchise rights in 1969, honoring Turner with the name Taco John’s.
Now, there are nearly 400 Taco John’s restaurant in 26 states. Operators even trademarked the widely celebrated Taco Tuesday in 1989.
The company employs hundreds of people locally.
“It’s really been a boon to our local economy and cuisine,” Buchanan said.
“It’s brought a new type of business savvy and experience to Wyoming and Cheyenne.”
Buchanan said as a child growing up near Torrington, he would walk across town after baseball practice to eat at the Taco John’s. Since then, the restaurant has felt like home – an anecdote shared by other speakers during Tuesday’s celebration.
“Taco John’s gave me a lot of sustenance over the years as a young college student,” he joked.
“And, of course, as a legislator at the capitol here, I can’t tell you how many times I would walk over to the Carey Avenue store. I think I can truthfully say I would not be where I am today were it not for Potato Olés.”
Cheyenne City Councilman Jeff White still remembers the first time he ate at a Taco John’s in 1981.
“That jingle ‘once we getcha, then we gotcha, gotcha coming back for more,’ is no lie,” he said, referencing an old Taco John’s advertisement. “Since then, I’ve been going to Taco Tuesday religiously for the past three decades.”
White added what a reliable community partner the company’s leadership and staff have been throughout the years, donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to charities such as Grace For 2 Brothers, Black Dog Animal Rescue and Climb Wyoming.
“They’re also regularly named an outstanding employer for people with disabilities,” he said.
Taco John’s CEO Jim Creel unveiled the company’s new food truck, and announced plans to remodel the South Greeley Highway store.
“The system has never been healthier,” Creel said. “We’ve got a new look, and we’re trying new things. You’ll also probably notice we have torn down our restaurant on South Greeley. We’re going to build our new design out there. But, right across the street, the taco truck will be there for breakfast and lunch.”
In honor of the anniversary, Orr renamed 20th Street “Olé Way” for the day. She also presented Creel with a “key to the city” and proclaimed June 4 “National Taco John’s Day.”