Never tell Jesse Taylor, owner of the Quesadilla Factory, no. Or at least don’t tell him his ideas will never work, because he will just prove that they will. Sitting down with Jesse at the Quesadilla Factory, I learn this easy-going guy has a determined streak in him – which is just what you need for a successful restaurant.
It all started after Jesse graduated from W.F. West High School in 2002 and moved away to attend the University of Arizona. He was majoring in regional development but he and a friend were dreaming of something much bigger. “We actually started out with this idea of a pizza place that also served quesadillas,” Jesse recalls. “But the cost of starting a pizza restaurant is extremely high and we wanted to be a modern take on ‘traditional food.’” So they looked at the Subway concept. “I remember coming from class and saying, ‘Let’s just do quesadillas.’”
It was a good idea but it took a defining moment to set Jesse in motion. He remembers the turning point like it was yesterday. “I was sitting in a class working on my business plan and the professor came over and asked what I was working on. I told him and he then asked what the idea was. His response when I told him was, ‘That’ll never work.’ I got up, politely told him what I thought about him and left. I dropped out of college that day. I was only a semester away from graduating.”
See, never tell Jesse no. From that day on, he was determined to make it work. It wasn’t easy. He and his friend became business partners and tried to open a restaurant in Tucson but it never came to fruition.
“We were only 22-years-old, so nobody wanted to rent to us,” Jesse says. “That was the main challenge.”
Home to Lewis County
After numerous failed attempts, they moved back home. They tried to lease a space in Hawks Prairie but ran into the same road block. Jesse was not deterred. He wrote up a new business plan and pitched it to Larry Robertson of Fairway Centers who gave Jesse a chance. “He is a great guy,” Jesse says of Larry.
In 2007, the Quesadilla Factory finally opened its doors – and what a first year they had. Just four months in, the big flood of ’07 hit and flooded the restaurant, destroying the consoles and computers in their LAN gaming area. “It was hard recouping from that,” Jesse says. But he did.
He slowly sold off the LAN equipment that had survived the flood and replaced them with Xboxes. Those began to have issues in 2009 so Jesse turned into an electrician, fixing them himself. Soon he was fixing them for other people too. And not just game consoles, but cell phones and computers as well. It became a big side business. “We stopped doing repairs a year ago and I still get ten calls a day,” Jesse adds.
Just a few months after the flood, Jesse and his business partner split. But you just can’t keep Jesse down. “It was hard work – 90 hours, seven days a week – but I enjoyed it,” he explains.
Growing and Thriving
In 2010, they started holding concerts in an all-age setting. “That was a turning point,” Jesse recalls. “That’s when the kids really started coming in. It was a really important step in bringing the Quesadilla Factory to where it is today.”
Jesse recognizes Jesus Martinez and the Evergreen Noise concert crew for all the hard work they put in during a four year run from 2010—2014. “They were truly a great group of people to work with and I’d just like to give them a big thank you,” Jesse says.
With the new groups of kids coming in, Jesse decided to bring in arcade games. Back then he had just four. Now he has over 40.
One thing that has not changed since the opening is their beverage company. They have used L&E Bottling since day one. “I choose them because they had Mountain Dew, which the kids really like,” he says. “It’s just a better brand, both in product but also customer service. They are great guys. If I need something I can just call them up and I get to talk to a person – that’s important. And they are quick, with weekly drop-offs.”
“Experience was a main challenge – I had none,” Jesse says. “When we first started out, I just wanted people in the door. I kind of built the business backwards. First I got the customers, then I figured out what I was going to do.”
C.B.B.: Chicken, Bacon and BarbecueJesse’s Favorite:
Croc-A-Dilla: Pulled Barbecue pork with added pineapple and onions
It may seem backwards to Jesse, but it worked. They are busy. In fact, last month they had about 60 parties. They have a very economical party package that makes hosting a snap for anyone.
Jesse says that owning a restaurant is definitely not a get rich quick scheme but he enjoys it. “I love the people and the camaraderie I have with my employees,” he relates. “I always wanted to work some place where I enjoy it, so we try and make it a fun and light atmosphere.”
The restaurant is also well known for its food. After all, these are no ordinary quesadillas. Jesse wanted to modernize food and he has. With an assembly line style menu and ingredients you would never find in a traditional quesadilla, Jesse’s dillas are far from ordinary. They include ingredients such as barbecue sauce, pulled pork, and ham and pineapple.
Moving forward, Jesse is working on creating his own homemade tortillas, including a gluten-free option. And, they are hoping to open a second location in Thurston County by 2020.
1744 S. Gold St.
Monday-Saturday: 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Sunday: 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Find the Quesadilla Factory on Facebook