HISTORY OF THE TACO SHOP
Remodeling an abandoned building into a restaurant
In 1992, Jim Birger Jr. retired from 40 years of farming. Jim and his wife, Linda Birger would open a Mexican/American restaurant in downtown Holtville that same year. In July of 1992, the Birgers picked the building that would soon become The Taco Shop. The building had formerly been a liquor store but after the liquor store closed, it had sat empty and neglected for 8 1/2 years. The building needed a lot of work but they saw great potentional underneath the layers of dirt.The inside of the building needed to be completely remodeled from a liquor store into a restaurant setup. This included converting a storage area into an office, adding walls to complete a kitchen area, building a public bathroom area, removing shelving and adding a new drop ceiling with new lighting.
Establishing a place in the community
The Taco Shop opened in November of 1992 and quickly became not only a local Imperial Valley favorite but word of The Taco Shop spread throughout the country. Many truck drivers spread the word of the good food to other truckers and tales spread as far at the Canadian border, with an inspector there mentioning The Taco Shop. The restaurant became a daily routine for many local high school students, farmers and residents. In early 1999, Jim and Linda passed ownership of The Taco Shop to their daughter and son-in-law, Missy and Fernando Hernandez. Although he no longer owned the Taco Shop, this didn't stop Jim from reporting to work on a daily basis. He enjoyed interacting with the customers, preparing the carne asada and picking up the supplies. He simply could not be pulled away from the place he loved to be. There were some minor changes throughout the years after the new owners took over but the Taco Shop remained a staple in the small community. In 2003, shortly after celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the Taco Shop, Jim Birger Jr. passed away at the age of 63. Even though the Taco Shop still continues today, Jim's footprints have not only been left in the Taco Shop but the entire Holtville community as well and the man filling those prints will always be remembered and dearly missed. There is a small cactus garden memorial to Jim on the outside of the Taco Shop.
New ownerships and changes
In 200(4?), Missy and Fernando Hernandez passed on ownership of the Taco Shop to their sister and brother-in-law, Juana and David Lantzer. Taco Shop went through major interior changes while under their ownership including a large desert scene mural, beautiful spanish tile and other decorations. The Taco Shop remained a staple and Juana and David became new familar faces in the restaurant. David, who was working as Holtville's fire chief, took a new job in another city and the couple soon relocated and passed on ownership. The Taco Shop was owned briefly by another Hernandez sister, Sandra, from 2009 - 2011 before Juana Lantzer would briefly return in 2011 as owner once again.
Nearing the 20th anniversary
In January of 2012, Fernando and Missy Hernandez re-aquired ownership of the The Taco Shop. In November of 2012, The Taco Shop will celebrate it's 20th anniversary.
EXCERPTS FROM THIS ARTICLE HAVE BEEN TAKEN FROM THE IMPERIAL VALLEY PRESS AND HOLTVILLE TRIBUNE.