It wasn’t a good summer for Moana Dixon and her mother, Cheryl Kaheleilani. On the night of Friday, August 3, a grease fire burned the pair’s Mexican take-out eatery in Johnson, Hot Tamale Co., to the ground. The building was also their rental home.
Now things are looking up. The duo has found a new location, and, if all goes well, Hot Tamale Co. Mexicatessen will open in Morrisville in the first week of November.
But not without some serious elbow grease. The mother and daughter are refurbishing the former hardware store at 74 Portland Street themselves. “There are a handful of things as far as basic structural needs,” Dixon says. “A lot of it is aesthetic stuff — putting down flooring and paneling and bathrooms. We’re just two gals brandishing power tools and hammers.” The “two gals” are also still seeking donations on their website to help defray opening costs.
When it’s finished, Dixon says, the 1000-square-foot space will have “a vintage-industrial cantina” look. Much of the wood is being reclaimed from area barns. A hybrid of full and counter-style service will help the pair save funds they need to “concentrate on local farms and keeping the food organic and local — not [on] all the bells and whistles,” Dixon says.
The “Mexicatessen” in the name refers to the new restaurant’s retail section, where visitors will be able to buy frozen tamales, enchiladas and Kaheleilani’s famous salsas to take home.