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Arts & Culture

At 60, Taco Time Is A Eugene Restaurateur's Legacy

Brian Bull

Eugene’s oldest – and most expansive – restaurant chain turns 60 today.  KLCC’s Brian Bull reports on Taco Time.

Eugene native Ron Fraedrick was a World War II Navy veteran who didn’t want to work in the family heating oil business indefinitely. So he mortgaged the family home, borrowed $5,000, and opened the first Taco Time at 13th and High Street on January 15th, 1960.

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
Lunch at Taco Time usually includes staples such as specialty hot sauce and Mexi-Fries, as well as tacos, burritos, and more innovative ones like taco burgers and crustos.

Neither Fraedrick nor the original restaurant are still around. But Taco Time has since expanded to 300 locations in North America, mostly in the Pacific Northwest and Rockies.  For a while there were even Taco Times in Greece, Kuwait, Japan, and the Mall of America.  One in Roselle, Illinois is currently the furthest east, while one in Ketchikan, Alaska is the furthest north.

Credit Used with permission by Kahala Brands.
Taco Time founder, Ron Fraedrick, of Eugene.

Brand president Kevin Gingrich has been acquainted with Taco Time since the 1980s.  Back then, he frequented the one in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. 

Gingrich says while the franchise faces tough competition from other Mexican fast food chains, quality still sustains it.

“When you go out to eat, there’s so many different factors, but what it comes down to is the product," explains Gingrich.

"And it’s the taste profile. Uniquely our spice profile that we have, and also that we make so many of our products in-house, every day.”

Those products include salsa and taco shells. Furthermore, Taco Times give out bigger portions than competitors, adds Gingrich.  Besides being brand president, Gingrich's wife also owns two Taco Times in Utah. 

Meanwhile, the daughter of the restaurant’s founder says he’d love seeing how it’s shaped up 60 years later.

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
Customers at a Taco Time in West Eugene.

67-year-old Kim Fraedrick recalls helping her dad, Ron Fraedrick, with the original Taco Time that opened near the University district.  She and her sister worked there despite not being able to see over the counter. 

Like Gingrich, Kim Fraedrick agrees that what made the restaurant successful back then - and now -  was the freshly-made items prepared by her dad, a big fan of Mexican food who meticulously crafted recipes including the original hot sauce.

“He just loved Taco Time, he loved the business, he loved bringing it up from nothing, starting it in Eugene, Oregon…no one knew what a taco was,” she tells KLCC.

Credit Used with permission by Kahala Brands.
An archival photograph shows an early Taco Time (date unknown).

“I went there every day for lunch during high school, every day!  And usually took a bunch of friends,” laughs Fraedrick.

The elder Fraedrick sold Taco Time to Scottsdale, Arizona-based Kahala Brands in 2003. He died in 2015 at the age of 87.

Kim Fraedrick says she still loves Taco Time, especially the crisp meat burritos.  She now lives in California where no Taco Times exist, but always orders a dozen burritos whenever she comes across one while traveling.

To mark 60 years, Taco Time is giving out free “Crustos” (sugar-cinnamon coated tortilla chips) all day on the anniversary of the original restaurant's opening (January 15th).  Gingrich says there will also be retro swag offered via the franchise's social media through the rest of 2020.

Copyright 2020, KLCC.