BRATTLEBORO—While there may not be a taco truck on every corner, much to some residents’ dismay, Tito Garza is working to at least get one taco truck in downtown Brattleboro.
And amid a string of setbacks, Garza shows no signs of quitting.
Last summer, Garza set up his makeshift shop on the side of Western Avenue, at the turnaround just west of the Creamery Bridge. He brought three coolers filled with 30 homemade breakfast tacos.
The first day didn’t go so well.
“I got a lot of weird looks. I sold two tacos. I came home with my tail between my legs,” Garza said.
Undeterred, Garza redid the recipe, went back out to the side of the road the following week, and sold every single taco he made.
After two months of clandestinely selling breakfast tacos in that location, Garza tried going legit. He applied for a permit from the town.
“I was denied. They said it was an unsafe location,” Garza said.
But the tacos prevailed.
Shortly after getting the bad news, Garza brought his son for ice cream to Avenue Grocery, just about a mile closer to downtown from his taco turnaround. He mentioned his troubles to Brian and Jan Anderson, Avenue Grocery’s owners.
“They said, ‘Do it here!’” said Garza.
The town approved that permit, and Garza moved operations to the shop at the end of the summer.
A hand-lettered sign
Morning commuters on that part of Western Avenue may recall a bearded man — that’s Garza — sitting in front of the shop, smiling and waving and holding a hand-lettered sign on florescent oaktag. “Tacos!"
“I was supposed to be there a couple days, and I’m still there,” he said, adding that the Andersons “have been super supportive.”
But, barely a month after Garza got settled at Avenue Grocery, more bad news arrived.
A letter came from a lawyer, informing Garza his business’s name, “Tito’s Tacos,” was already taken. Garza needed to “cease and desist” using the name — because some unsuspecting taco fan might confuse a fledgling Vermont taco stand with one 2,905 miles away in Culver City, Calif.
“I had no reason to fight it,” said Garza, “but it was great publicity."
Garza changed the name, and Tito’s Taqueria rolled on. By late-autumn, Garza was doing so well, he began selling breakfast and lunch, and he added burritos to the menu. Garza also quit his job at Supreme Fitness.
“I could support my family and save money” for a mobile cart, he said.
Saving money for a cart turned out to be a good plan.
In late-February, Garza learned the Andersons had found a buyer for the Avenue Grocery. The closing date is April 1.
’Your dream is a cart’
“With the store selling, it was a catalyst,” Garza said.
Unsure if he can stay at Avenue Grocery, Garza said his fiancee, Dakota Powell, urged him to focus on the next step.
“She would say to me, ‘Your dream is a cart,’” said Garza.
Although Garza admits “it’s a vulnerable feeling, asking for help,” he set up a Go Fund Me site, www.gofundme.com/titosvt, to help him purchase a made-to-order open-concept cart specifically designed to serve tacos.
His goal is $8,500, but “whether we raise half of it or all of it, it’s still a success,” Garza said.
The open-concept cart is better for Tito’s Taqueria at this stage of development, Garza said, because it’s easier to set up in smaller spaces, like on wider sidewalks.
Garza’s focus is on offering complex flavors through simple concepts, he said, and on making fresh food.
“My pico de gallo, guacamole, chipotle crema, poblano ranch, and avocado lime sauces must be fresh every day,” he said.
While he says he mostly sticks to his Mexican grandmother’s recipes for his bean, chicken, and pork tacos and burritos, he likes to “experiment in the kitchen” for his monthly specials.
“It’s a totally different flavor profile from my regular menu,” Garza said. Recent offerings included a short-rib option, chorizo, and shredded beef with roasted corn salsa and pinto beans cooked with bacon.
The Houston native didn’t attend culinary school, but he began cooking at an early age at home.
“I’m the second-oldest of six kids,” he said, noting his mother raised her children on her own. “She worked a lot. My older brother was a bad cook, so I learned to cook. I enjoyed it.”
Although Garza found success in his previous work in sales, he has known he wanted a taco truck since his early 20s. “I’m really into the food-truck movement,” he said.
“When I was a kid, we got to choose our meal on our birthday, and it was always tacos,” Garza said. “Tacos are comfort food for me.”
Tacos seems to be comfort food for many locals, too. Since opening his taqueria, Tito has been busy catering events, such as the Tiny House Festival, Gallery Walk, and serving private clients such as Putney Student Travel and Next Stage Arts.
Despite the series of setbacks, Garza maintains a positive attitude.
“People have been so encouraging. It’s been really, really cool,” he said. “It’s very, very rewarding to have people enjoy your food.”