Traverse City Restaurant Reinvents Itself from Tacos to Party Store
"We just wanted to find something that was more sustainable for a long term solution instead of the short term."
The pandemic is causing business owners everywhere to come up with creative ways to make money and stay in business.
And in Traverse City – a popular “Modern Day Taco Shop” is changing to party store. Mama Lu’s is reinventing itself, and reopening just in time for Cinco de Mayo.
Over the past four years, Mama Lu’s has arguably become one of Traverse City’s most popular restaurants. But like so many others, business has changed drastically over the past six weeks. Adrienne Brunette says, “No one was allowed inside. So we quickly changed our platform to curbside pickup, (and) less staff. We had to lay some people off right out of the gate. As well as some people were too nervous to work.”
It’s left them looking for a new way of doing business. The 30-seat restaurant wasn’t going to carry on in the usual way. “We know that we’re notoriously known for a very crowded space in the summertime. It’s meant to feel like you’re in a little street bodega in Mexico.” But Brunette says in the short-term they knew that model wasn’t going to work. “Even when that restriction is lifted we just feel like our community might not feel totally safe, and that includes our employees.”
Now, Mama Lu’s is offering all the fixings so you can have their famous tacos – at home. “We have prepared meats, some sides, like Spanish rice, refried beans, all the toppings, salsa, guacamole, Queso dip, everything to make Street Corn at home.” And they’ll offer their popular warm tortillas in a 12-pack.
You can still get a hot lunch to go with a featured menu item every day. But now getting your “taco essentials” is way to show you think this, too, is an essential business. Noemi “Mimi” Nuchurch works in the kitchen. She says, “I’m just really excited for what I think it’s going to be here. It’s really nerve-wracking but it’s nice to know we have such a strong foundation.”
It’s a way to stay connected to the community, and stay in business. Which is good news for the owners, their employees, and their customers. Nuchurch says there are plenty of them who are loyal. “It’s funny because you can tell when the same people are coming in because they order things the same way.” And Brunette adds, “All summer long they’ll be able to get Mama Lu’s. Before we were just serving hot foods where you had to plan ahead. Where with this party store format you can go on Wednesday and pick up your stuff for your family barbecue on the weekend.”
Nuchurch says it’s been a whirlwind getting ready to make Mama Lu’s a Party Store, with food and drinks ready to walk out the door. “What can we do better? And what’s going to help all of us, and be a part of the community again.”
After being closed for the past month, Mama Lu’s reopens on Tuesday: Cinco de Mayo.