#IAmAnEntrepreneur Spotlight: Luis Garcia, Mr. Taco

When Luis founded Mr. Taco in 2011, it was one of the first food trucks in Mason City, Iowa. The food truck movement has been slow to start and expand in the rural Midwest, but Luis quickly made Mr. Taco a household name by parking outside Mason City Brewing on weekends or in an empty lot near downtown Mason City and simply selling delicious food. Luis is a passionate entrepreneur who loves what he does, loves serving his customers, and loves bringing authentic Mexican food to rural Iowa. Mr. Taco captured the hearts (and stomachs) of Mason City by serving not only the ground beef tacos or enchiladas you might expect to find in rural Iowa, but also dishes inspired by the traditional fare of the Veracruz region in eastern Mexico. One of his hottest selling items is the Zombie Taco – a delicious and spicy mix of beef intestines and pork brains. Luis is also a bold entrepreneur; as the Mr. Taco food truck grew into a mobile Main Street mainstay, Luis recognized that there was an opportunity to expand if he was willing to take the risk. Luis worked with the Pappajohn Center to prepare for Mr. Taco’s next big step.

Luis is from Northwood, Iowa – a small town 20 miles away from Mason City – and knows how important small business is to a small community. He doesn’t just want to be successful on his own; he’s keenly aware of his role in the entrepreneurial ecosystem as a whole and wants all of Mason City to flourish. Luis surprised the many Mr. Taco fans by deciding to open a restaurant location in Mason City’s Southbridge Mall. Like many malls across America, the Southbridge Mall has been hit hard by the modern world. Despite its prime location in the heart of Mason City surrounded by important architecture, cultural landmarks, locally owned restaurants, and independent boutiques, the Southbridge Mall was steadily losing tenants. Luis felt strongly that establishing a location at the mall was a way for him to leverage Mr. Taco’s success and popularity to give residents and tourists another reason to visit downtown Mason City. Luis took a bold step in establishing a Mr. Taco location in the mall food court – but it was a bold step that paid off.

Mr. Taco opened its Southbridge Mall location in February 2016 and his fans followed. An estimated 500 customers showed up on opening day and the demand continues to hold strong. During the lunch time rush, you can find Luis working with his employees to serve a steady line of customers. In July 2020, Luis expanded his customer reach by opening Happy Donkey Tequila Bar on the plaza in downtown Mason City. After experimenting with churros and sandwiches, Luis and a network of family and friends invested in opening a second location to serve their popular tacos - now with the option of expanded hours, alcohol, and outdoor seating. Luis Garcia is an inspiring example of an Iowa entrepreneur who shows how hard work and a commitment to quality can turn a “weekend business” into a thriving endeavor.

Luis's entrepreneurial story is highlighted this week as part of the #IAmAnEntrepreneur series for Global Entrepreneurship Week 2020. Learn more about Global Entrepreneurship Week in North Iowa.

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