Serving up tacos with a twist

Joe Niemi puts the finishing touches on a Shredded Tacos sign at the restaurant’s Newhall Ranch Road location in Valencia. Joe and his wife Kim operate another Shredded Tacos location in the San Fernando Valley. Courtesy photo.

Kim and Joe Niem had never run a restaurant before opening Shredded Tacos in the San Fernando Valley in 2014. Now, they’re opening their second location in Valencia.

The 1,500-square-foot Valencia restaurant is the larger of the two. It will be located at the former Tri Tipps restaurant site on Newhall Ranch Road. Their San Fernando Valley operation is a 400-square-foot stand at the intersection of Devonshire St. and Balboa Blvd.

Unlike the San Fernando operation, this one will have interior seating. A soft opening is targeted for the weekend of Sept. 29-30, with a grand opening pending approval of the restaurant’s permanent signs. Temporary signs will be in place for the soft opening.

While the restaurant business was a new endeavor for the couple, they had a lot of experience feeding large numbers of hungry folks.

They ran many fundraisers over the years to benefit a church youth group, Campus After Dark, helping to raise thousands of dollars for the group by holding all-you-can-eat taco feasts.

Kim’s experience in the business world also helped get the restaurant noticed. Prior to entering the food industry, she learned a lot about selling from her career in marketing.

Learning from the best

She worked in the music industry and with NBC Universal, helping to launch TV shows such as “The Biggest Loser.” She worked for NBC when it was owned by General Electric, and that company taught her a lot about building a brand, she said.

Marketing aside, Kim said their success in the restaurant business is due in large part to their secret weapon – Jean’s Famous Salsa. It’s Joe’s mother’s recipe, and it has the flavor of traditional salsa, but with an Italian twist.

Jean guarded her recipe with great care. She would make a batch of the savory condiment for those who craved it, but would never reveal what goes into it.

That changed in 2014. With Jean’s blessing, Joe and Kim opened a little taco stand featuring shredded beef and chicken tacos with Jean’s salsa. They’ve kept the menu small, just like In-N-Out Burger, said Kim.

The restaurant’s interior will have a rustic look, with reclaimed wood and brick. The atmosphere will be casual and service will be speedy, but each serving will be cooked to order.

Kim says that many Santa Clarita residents, those who have attended one of their fundraisers or ventured to the San Fernando Valley Shredded Tacos, are already familiar with their offerings.

“We have great ties in Santa Clarita,” she said. “They know and crave tacos.”

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