Mesa Grande Taqueria is about to get grande-er.
Jim Daddabbo, owner of the Genesee Street Mexican restaurant, is currently overseeing construction of two new Mesa Grande locations: One in Camillus' Township 5 development, and another in Fairport's Perinton Square Mall. The former is scheduled to open in early March and the latter in early January, he said.
Daddabbo, who designed Mesa Grande to look like a chain restaurant, felt confident turning it into one after four straight years of growth for its Auburn location, he said.
"Overall, we've done phenomenally well," he said. "The store gets busier and busier."
Daddabbo credits some of that success to his roots in Auburn. In the larger, more competitive markets of Rochester and Syracuse, he admits he'll forfeit the home field advantage. However, he still hopes to position Mesa Grande as a regional brand — one where customers can walk in and see the CEO at work.
"It's a neat story because you usually have players in Rochester in Syracuse who open in Auburn as an afterthought," Daddabbo said. "It'd be great to have something that originated in Auburn kick some butt in the bigger markets."
The Camillus Mesa Grande, currently being built in the same plaza as Costco, will double the seating of the Auburn location, he said. The Fairport one, a former Blockbuster Video, will be even larger.
Otherwise, Daddabbo doesn't plan to fix what isn't broken. The menu of burritos, tacos, quesadillas and more will go unchanged. Aesthetically, both new restaurants will look much like the original: Concrete, wood and steel surfaces, bold signage and bright colors. Among the few changes will be the tables, which are stainless steel in Auburn, but will be made of 100-year-old reclaimed barn wood at the new restaurants.
"There'll be no mistaking you're in a Mesa Grande," he said.
More important to Daddabbo than any physical detail of Mesa Grande, though, is exporting its cultural energy to the new locations. One way he hopes to do that is making some of his Auburn employees store managers. Chris Adessa, store manager of the Auburn location, will also be promoted to district manager, Daddabbo said.
"It's a really exciting time for all of us," he said. "We've worked together for four-plus years in the trenches, now we have an opportunity to grow and make more money."
Camillus and Fairport are two of five locations Daddabbo hopes to open in the first phase of Mesa Grande's expansion. Based on their performance, he'll evaluate whether to open more — and maybe make Auburn the corporate headquarters of the next heavyweight in food.
"We see no limit to where we can take this," he said. "I would love to see us become a national chain."