All of our lives could be very different if Laura Mixson, co-owner of White Duck Taco Shop and Pizza Pura, had gotten her way.
“I wanted to be Ye Olde Taco Shop,” she says before falling into a fit of laughter. Her husband and business partner, Ben Mixson, just smiles.
“He’s better at branding,” Laura says, as she explains how the White Duck is growing. Let’s just say there’s nothing “olde” about it.
A new location of the White Duck will open in Charleston, S.C., later this year, using the same full-flavor recipes as the Asheville store.
They’re a little nervous, Ben admits. They’ve been using the f-word — franchise, that is. One of Ben’s college buddies will run the shop, and he’s under strict requirements to reproduce the White Duck Asheville loves so well.
“Recreating the Duck is our new challenge,” Laura says. “Our job actually becomes a little more difficult having a franchise, especially having the first one, making someone understand what we are as a restaurant, and a culinary restaurant — everything will still be made every day.”
The restaurant will open in a renovated convenience store on Folly Road. It’s not in Charleston proper — rather, it’s on James Island, between the city and Folly Beach.
The building should be instantly recognizable to those who know the Asheville taco shop. Just like the River Arts District store, the James Island Duck will have a bright orange exterior, wide patio and, Ben hopes, a line out the door.
Like the paint jobs, the two restaurants’ menus will be identical. “Quality assurance will be one of our top priorities, so we will be in Charleston back and forth,” Laura says.
The Mixsons took their time pinpointing location No. 2, which Laura thinks of as “the baby Duck,” or “Duck-quito.”
“We get investor offers often, and our answer has always been ‘no’ because we don’t want a partner,” Ben says. “In order for us to grow and for our staff to grow and the brand to grow, how do we structure it so we can do that?”
With a good friend and a ready market, Charleston seemed like the logical next step. However, the Mixsons still plan to expand in Asheville. They’ve been talking about a second store here for more than a year, but they’ve yet to find a location. Fixing up old buildings has become part of their M.O.
“We’re just trying to find the right spot,” Laura says. “We need to find a cool, old gas station or something.”
In Charleston, construction is beginning. Tacos alight late this year or early next year.