Food is returning to Trotwood with the opening or planned opening of three new restaurants within a year.
It began with Taste - a “fine dining” experience - taking over the old Applebee’s on Shiloh Springs Road last October. Last week, Jerseyz, a “family friendly” bar and grille with partners Carl Johnson and chief chef Delvin Parks, opened in the old Bill Knapps building on Salem Avenue.
As soon as September, a Taqueria Mixteca will open in the old California Kitchen building, which previously housed a Pizza Hut, on Shiloh Springs in front of the old Best Buy store.
Francisco (Paco) Mejia and his family would be opening their second area restaurant. They already operate a Taqueria Mixteca on East Third Street in Dayton.
That’s three independently-owned restaurants in Trotwood opening within a year, and Johnson, for one, wants to see the competition continue.
“Taste is back there, and (Mixteca) is coming there and I want to have them all around us,” said Johnson, a Trotwood high school grad, pointing to the new food locations. “I want to have restaurants all around us. I really do. This is just too good. The economy, yeah, we’re going through hard times. But this is home.
“We lost GM, we lost the truck and bus plant. We need to create jobs. When people ask, ‘What are you doing?’ and you say, ‘I’m staying out of the way.’ No, we need to get in the way. The good lord blessed us with talent and we need to help.”
Jerseyz already has hired about 40 employees (both full and part time) and wants to get that number to 48. Mixteca plans to hire four to five initially. Staff at Taste numbers between 20 and 25.
Carl Daugherty, Trotwood’s director of planning and zoning, spent about a year trying to lure Mixteca to the area.
“Our ability to attract national chains is limited,” Daugherty said. “So we’re trying to attract quality independent restaurants.
“There’s a whole market here really being under served. I’ve eaten (at Mixteca). It’s very good. And there is an opportunity here.”
While Taste, with an ownership group led by Jason Thomas, who also grew up in Trotwood, focuses on fine dining with a jazz band at night, Jerseyz, despite its name, wants to be a bar and grill not a sports bar.
Featuring jerseys of famous area athletes hanging on the walls, Johnson wants his place to cater to a wide range of customers.
“We’re not a sports bar,” Johnson said. “We’re not a hangout. We want families to come in here. We want seniors. You’ll be able to come here with kids and have a sit-down meal. You’ll be able to come with a date and have a romantic meal.
“In the bar area, we have more TVs. In the side rooms, we have a couple. If you want to see a game, you’ll be able to do that.”
Mejia has operated Mixteca on East Third Street for seven years after remodeling an old Burger Chef building.
Originally from Mexico, his family migrated to Chicago, then Oklahoma City, and finally to Dayton.
“I looked for a big Hispanic market,” Mejia said. “So we opened here. All of the sudden, I find Americans in here. We focused on Hispanics. It didn’t work out that way.”
About a year ago, Trotwood came calling and wanted to know if Mejia wanted to open another location.
“We said we’d give it a try,” Mejia said. “Maybe that (location) isn’t what it was, but it will get better. We’re not moving. We’re keeping this location, too. And we’ll have a liquor license in Trotwood.”
Said Johnson: “People around here deserve more. What we’re trying to do is bring some life back.”