With tacos, lingerie and wine, Chippewa Valley residents were able to indulge this past weekend and help raise more than $3,000 to erase local student lunch debt.
Bomb Tacos, a year-old eatery in Chippewa Falls, offered to donate 10 percent of its sales last week and an additional $300 to help eliminate the $1,300-worth of student lunch debt at Chippewa Falls Area Unified School District.
Local businesses, ranging from food, beauty and firearm safety establishments, joined in with owner Royce Roberts’ philanthropy, each offering to also donate sales, have collection bowls on front counters or make business donations.
With funds exceeding the goals — and more out-of-state checks expected to come in soon — Roberts said the drive will now also benefit McDonell Central Catholic Schools’ student lunch debt.
“It’s nice; it’s really nice. I didn’t really expect anything close to this,” Roberts said, later adding, “There have been so many people that have come out of the woodwork.”
A history of giving back
In its short tenure on Bridge Street, Bomb Tacos has raised awareness and funds for the Chippewa Valley Literacy Group, the Red Letter Grant through Red’s Mercantile in Eau Claire and a local cancer patient and friend.
The taco shop also does continual work with the Chippewa County Humane Association, featuring animals on its Facebook page and offering $10 off at the stand for those who adopt the featured animals.
“I feel like it’s my responsibility,” Roberts said. “I haven’t been blessed with the greatest things in life, but I believe that everybody should at least have the basics, you know?”
Roberts said the taco shop doesn’t have any fundraisers in the works right now, but is planning a hockey fundraiser to help with restorations on the local rink.
Roberts graduated from culinary school in 2004, and went into cooking and bartending. The pay between $8.50 to $10 per hour drew Roberts away from his cooking passion and into more bartending roles, but becoming a restaurant owner essentially just happened.
A friend owned the property that is now Bomb Tacos, but was no longer keen on paying for it. Roberts offered to buy the place, and just like that, he was the owner of a restaurant.
He and three other owners ran the place for more than year, before Roberts bought out his fellow partners this April. The demands of owning their own business wasn’t fitting anymore for his fellow owners — something Roberts said is understandable.
When Bomb Tacos first opened, Roberts was working 90 hours per week between the stand and his other jobs.
“The easiest thing that you will ever do in your life is work for somebody else, because you show up, you know what your daily tasks are, you go home, you collect your check – that’s it,” Roberts said, later adding, “It really is a lot of work that you really need to to keep an eye on and be aware of everything. So when it became too much for them, I don’t blame them one bit for trying to get out, because it’s an immense amount of work.”
And why tacos?
The flexibility of the meal drew out Roberts’ creative side from culinary school, where he had international cooking classes with chefs from Australia and India who would incorporate their heritages into the dishes.
That’s why patrons who order Bomb Tacos’ weekly specialties are often choosing between varieties of options, such as a Philly cheesesteak or buffalo chicken taco.
Just like with helping local organizations, the options are versatile.
“Tacos don’t have to be Mexican,” Roberts said. “That’s why we kind of change it up.”