There is a new member of Smithtown’s ownership, but for those who frequent the eatery the face is a familiar one.
Karen Nustad, a Smithtown resident who has worked at the eatery on-and-off for 11 years, has changed from an employee to a co-owner, alongside longtime owner Chris Jehle.
A change in ownership of any business could disturb longtime customers, but Nustad said when those regulars see she is now a part of the ownership they are relieved.
“A lot of people are happy, happy that it’s a familiar face … when they find out it’s me, because I’ve been here on-and-off for 11 years, they’re a little more at ease,” she said.
As a new owner Nustad is trying to revamp the image of the eatery. Nustad believes many locals consider Salsa Salsa to be a mere taco shop. She wants to dispel those notions by adding weekly specials and authentic Mexican cuisine to the menu.
If you were a first-time customer looking for a recommendation, Nustad would be quick to show off one of the sizzling fajitas, especially the chicken. Other items that could stand out to both the Salsa Salsa newcomer and the longtime customer are the specials, such as the blackened mahi over black bean salsa or the chile rellenos.
Additional changes to the menu will cater to the healthier eater, from whole-wheat taco tortillas to more vegetarian and gluten free items. While there have been a few changes to the menu and a few more are to come, Nustad said there would be more additions and no cuts to the already popular menu options.
The revamping of Salsa Salsa’s image doesn’t stop with the menu, as social media will become a bigger part of the business, to attract new clientele and keep in touch with the regulars. The restaurant now has a Twitter account, is on Foursquare and Facebook, and has an application available on all smartphones that displays the menu, specials and more. Nustad said the application is functional right now but not at 100 percent, and should be fully operational within a month.
Nustad said since she’s become an owner a month ago business has increased by an estimated 20 to 30 percent.
Nustad admitted becoming an owner has been a little scary so far and hasn’t fully hit her yet, but she is optimistic that things will work out for her.
“Part of me, it hasn’t sunk in yet,” she said. “Some days I’ll come in and be like, ‘wow, this is mine’ … but it feels good.”