Fuzzy’s Taco Shop experiences successful opening turnout

Fuzzy’s Taco Shop is expecting success with new, unique food offerings.

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In a swirl of bright colors and the aroma of Mexican cuisine, downtown Columbia’s newest restaurant, Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, opened on Nov. 27 at 8 a.m. Fuzzy’s Taco Shop is the fifth location to open under owner Scott Bonner’s direction and the first in the Columbia area, located at 132 S. 9th St. By 2 p.m. approximately 300 customers came to try Fuzzy’s various combinations of tacos, nachos and other Mexican dishes.

Fuzzy’s Taco Shop opens at 8 a.m. and closes at 12 a.m. on weekdays and opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 1 a.m. on weekends. According to Kimberly Neil, director of marketing, Fuzzy’s is a “fast, casual, fun place” to eat, offering all of its menu options, including its breakfast section, at all hours. Neil believes Fuzzy’s atmosphere is an important aspect of the restaurant’s identity.

“We’re a fun place to hang out,” Neil said. “You can pull up a chair. You can pull tables together. You can have parties, happy hours, just a fun place to hang out.”

Bonner hopes Fuzzy’s Taco Shop can become a staple within Columbia’s downtown community by encouraging customers to both come eat and hang out there. After seeing roughly 100 people waiting in line before opening, he believes Fuzzy’s welcoming atmosphere can accomplish this.

“[My goal is] to embed ourselves in the community and become a place where when people think downtown Columbia ... they think about Fuzzy’s first,” Bonner said.

Despite construction issues pushing back the opening date from its initial August plan, dedication to Fuzzy’s helped make the restaurant into the place it is today, according to Neil. Roughly half of Fuzzy’s employed staff are students, and even administrative positions, going all the way up to Bonner himself, lend a hand in daily operations. According to Bonner, the Mexican chain has grown over time since the first of his five restaurants opened.

“Fuzzy’s has evolved quite a bit from our first store, which was just a counter-front and a pretty basic decor,” Bonner said. “Since then, we’ve implemented the bar. I think this is probably our best-looking store that we’ve had out of the five. It was a long process, but it was worth it.”

First-day customers Zach Clark and Caleb Alexander were eager to try Fuzzy’s Taco Shop. Alongside the food they each ordered, both Clark and Alexander appreciated the atmosphere of the restaurant.

“I like [its environment],” Clark said. “It’s somewhat a cross between a regular Mexican restaurant and also [has] a California vibe to it.”

Not only does the atmosphere of Fuzzy’s Taco Shop in downtown Columbia differ from other Fuzzy’s locations, but its initial success also superseded that of past store openings. Citing this location as one of the biggest Fuzzy openings nationwide, Neil was surprised to see a line of eager customers waiting for opening day the night before.

“It was really exciting,” Neil said. “Like I knew people would come, but I didn’t think it would be until 5 [or] 6 in the morning. No, they were here at like ... 10:30 last night.”

One of the featured additions to Fuzzy’s Taco Shop besides its all day menu options and expansive drink menu is its full-bar service, something his other four locations do not offer. Neil believes this new system, which does not require customers to wait in line to order, will be a significant factor to the new location’s success.

“If there is a line here, you can literally come in and if there is bar seats, you can come here and don’t have to wait in line, and then the bartenders will serve you,” Neil said. “You don’t have to get up and do anything. So it’s full-bar service whereas if you go sit at the tables, you get a buzzer and once it buzzes, you go get your food, but you have to wait in line and order.”

Another big part of Fuzzy’s identity is its connection to local non-for-profit groups. According to Neil, the store hopes to participate in donations, catering opportunities and other philanthropic organizations in Columbia, beginning with its opening community service project using tips to raise funds for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Columbia.

To celebrate its opening, Fuzzy’s Taco Shop offered free taco plates to its first 50 customers. This deal included receiving any two tacos and any two sides once a week for a year for free. In addition, you can follow Fuzzy’s Taco Shop on its app or Snapchat to learn of the restaurant’s various deals and giveaways. Neil believes these new piloted programs adds to Fuzzy’s one-of-a-kind nature.

“[Fuzzy’s Taco Shops] have their own unique look,” Neil said. “Not one Fuzzy’s is alike, not even [among Bonner’s]. That’s what’s really fun about it.”

Edited by Brooke Collier | bcollier@themaneater.com

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