The sign for The Taco Spot came down and the sign for Taco Bartina went up on June 15, creating confusion among the West Ashley restaurant's longtime customers and a new marketing dilemma for its owners.
It's been 13 years since the local Mexican restaurant opened its doors and owners Jason and Lindsey Vaughan declined to pay $700 to trademark its name.
That was a mistake, said Jason Vaughan. But at the time, it didn't seem necessary.
"There was no other business anywhere named The Taco Spot," Vaughan said. "So we were very happy and ignored what we should've done, looking back on it."
Fast forward to 2021 and the Lowcountry restaurant shares a name with taco joints in Florida, Texas, Arizona and Illinois. That's why Vaughan decided to replace it with something unique.
Though the Ashley River Road restaurant has owned the coveted web domain thetacospot.com since its launch, phone calls for the wrong restaurants had been coming in for the past couple of years.
Vaughan once placated an angry couple over their dry taco meat, not realizing until they brought up a Long Island Ice Tea, which he doesn't sell, that they were mad about the Hollywood, Fla., Taco Spot.
The Lowcountry restaurant's Yelp page became inundated with complaints about varying locations around the country, from Chicago to Tyler, Texas, lowering its star count.
"We used to worry about someone from the newspaper coming and (giving us a) bad review, but there's nothing like an average Joe in a bad mood leaving a bad review for the wrong restaurant," Vaughan said.
Two years ago, Vaughan began the process of looking for a new restaurant name to alleviate some of the confusion.
In 2021, finding a restaurant name not already trademarked is much more challenging than doing so in 2008, he said.
At first, he and his staff sat down with a dictionary and picked out words that might fit. "Neighborhood Taco Spot" was trademarked by an Austin, Texas, food truck. "Taco Cantina" sounded nice but it was taken too.
After discovering all his top choices were already picked, Vaughan decided to throw his Merriman-Webster aside and concoct his own word. He combined "bar" and "cantina" to create the new moniker: Taco Bartina.
After consulting a lawyer and submitting the proper paperwork, Vaughan had spent more than $2,000 on trademarking the new name. Add $1,000 for a new sign.
Co-owner and his wife Lindsey redesigned the logo and updated it across the website, social media pages, menu and more.
Then on June 15, the sign company arrived a few days earlier than expected to replace the old storefront logo.
"The original plan was to close for a day and then reopen," Vaughan said.
Instead, he decided to roll with the punches and play catch-up.
That threw regulars for a loop. Some people stopped by thinking it was a new restaurant, not realizing the storefront had been open for more than a decade.
Vaughan still hasn't ordered new merchandise, though the tees with the old name are now selling like hotcakes, he admitted with a laugh.
As for now, staff members are still answering the phones "Taco Spot."