Shoals’ Downtown Growth Continues with the Arrival of Taco Mama

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Shoals’ Downtown Growth Continues with the Arrival of Taco Mama
Now that Taco Mama is open for business, lovers of great music and fast-casual Mexican food have all the more reason to stop by the growing downtown district. Since opening its doors on May 28, the taqueria has brought increased activity and buzz to the intersection at Cherry and College Street, where the restaurant is located alongside other newly established retail spaces. 
Taco Mama’s arrival was part of an effort spearheaded by Bobo Development Group, a local real estate and development firm. James Bobo II, the firm’s CEO and president, knew the Birmingham-based restaurant chain offered an atmosphere and culture that seemed like a perfect match for the area. “Out of all the ideas that came through this building, Taco Mama was the best,” said Bobo, referring to the decision.
The first Taco Mama opened in Birmingham in 2011. Will Haver, founder of the Taco Mama franchise, opened the restaurant as an homage to West Coast-style burrito shops with laid-back, beachy vibes. While it’s since become famous for its freshly-prepared tacos and burritos, along with its quirky and extensive margarita menu, Bobo says the restaurant’s unique atmosphere is what made Taco Mama a perfect fit for Florence.
“Will Haver has such a great culture and wonderful outlook on life,” said Bobo about the Taco Mama founder. “He has a passion for bringing people together and crafting the best environment, all the way down to the music, so they can enjoy his other passion: tacos and margaritas.”
Taco Mama’s opening marks a new stage in Florence’s downtown redevelopment, specifically the College Street district. With the success of Singin’ River Brewery, it was clear that the next step was reviving the space provided by the old Auto Electric Service building at 121 South Cherry Street. The building had stood there since 1941, and though it was old, it still had a good bit of charm. Bobo felt that preserving this quality, while introducing a new retail space, was the best way to honor the building’s legacy.
Bobo sees the new restaurant existing in perfect harmony with the culture and atmosphere already developing in the area, calling it “a great addition to the College Street district of Florence.” While the new Taco Mama has already proven itself successful, Bobo stresses that his company’s redevelopment plans are still in progress. “There’s a lot of positive things happening around the College Street district. We still have one space left in our building for something unique.” Expressing a desire to open another retail space in the same building that complements the new Taco Mama, Bobo hinted that there’s more to come. “We’re not sure what that’s going to be yet, but we’re shaking a few bushes.”
Recently, Bobo has increased his involvement in Shoals-area community development projects. On top of his other work, he is also a driving force behind the popular Shoals Street Pianos venture. That project, mostly active on Instagram, aims to shape the Shoals’ culture by getting the community back in touch with its musical roots. “My goal was to create unity in the community through music and our street pianos are doing a great job of that.”
Those same musical roots are why Taco Mama and Florence are a match made in heaven. To Will Haver, music is almost as important to the dining experience as the food, as evidenced by his restaurant’s carefully curated playlists. “Florence has such great feel—the people, the food scene, the architecture, the history—especially the music,” said the Taco Mama founder.
Bobo also views these qualities as central to the city’s identity. It’s part of the reason why he’s getting so involved in community development—making Florence better by highlighting what’s made it so great already. With some buy-in from the community, plus a little more effort, he sees a clear path toward a brighter future for the Shoals: “I believe this area is ripe for redevelopment. Now is the time for us, as a community, to directly influence this next wave of downtown redevelopment.”