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Margaritas Mexican Restaurant is the largest privately owned Mexican restaurant chain in New England. The proper name of the restaurant is "Tío Juan's Margaritas Mexican Restaurant", but it is most commonly referred to as "Margaritas".
The concept originated when several Chuck's Steakhouse locations owned and run by Kukai, Inc were converted to Mexican restaurants and renamed "Margaritaville" in the late 1970s and early '80s. John Pelletier, an employee and manager of Chuck's Steak House in Concord, New Hampshire, opened his own Mexican restaurant in Concord, calling it "Tio Juan's".
In 1987, John partnered with Stan Bagley and converted a small restaurant in Orono, Maine, into the first Margaritas Mexican Restaurant. The following year, John's brother Dave Pelletier joined the partnership. Together they opened a restaurant in Portland, Maine, in 1989.
In 1996, the owners formed Margaritas Management Group Inc. to oversee the operations of the restaurants. MMG is headquartered in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
In 1999, in order to unify a growing company, the Concord restaurant was officially renamed "Margaritas Mexican Restaurant". In 2001, in order to trademark the company name and distinguish it from other similarly named Mexican restaurants across the country, the restaurants officially became "Tio Juan's Margaritas Mexican Restaurant".
The concept evolved considerably over the years, with the owners travelling regularly to Mexico to study the food, culture and decor. The visits to Mexico established the founders' love of and appreciation for the culture, and many strong business relationships and friendships formed with artists and furniture makers throughout the country.
Each Margaritas has a unique layout, as no two buildings are alike. Many Margaritas are located in buildings that were built for other purposes including a former police station, a town power plant, factories and a private home. Dining rooms and lounges are decorated with artwork, hand-made furniture and décor, all of which are imported directly from Mexico. The decor includes custom carved, tile-top tables, many examples of folk art created by artists from little villages surrounding Guadalajara. Colorful pottery and planters adorn shelves alongside hand-carved, painted tables and chairs. There are hand-painted details on the walls with colorful suns and animals created in various media located throughout the restaurant. Tables are lit with star lights and clay lamps.
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Several Margaritas Restaurants are located in unique and historic buildings throughout the northeast.
The first Tio Juan's restaurant, located in Concord, New Hampshire, is situated within the city's old police station and jail. The dining room is located in the area of the actual jail cells. The restaurant uses this to good effect, placing tables within cells to create atmospheric and semi-private dining areas. Because the Concord location was the first to be established, and had good name recognition, it remained uniquely named Tio Juan's while all subsequent restaurants were named Margaritas. The Concord location is claimed by some to be haunted by a ghost named "George". This has been documented in several local publications and in various TV shows that deal with ghosts and hauntings.
In 1987, the Orono, Maine, location opened, followed by the restaurant at St. John Street, Portland, in 1989. Augusta, Maine, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, followed in 1990. The Mansfield, Connecticut, restaurant, a converted cow barn formally known as Springhill Farm, was bought from Kuka, Inc. in 1992. That restaurant combined the Margaritas Mexican menu with a steakhouse menu and was known as "Chuck's and Margaritas". That was followed by Branford, Connecticut, and Lewiston, Maine, in 1993. Lewiston incorporated the steakhouse menu for the first few years, but it was dropped in 1999.
Mystic, Connecticut, another converted Chuck's Steakhouse and later Margaritaville, became a part of the Margaritas organization in 1996. That restaurant is located in a former sail factory a short distance from Mystic Seaport. In 1998, Margaritas opened the Nashua, New Hampshire, restaurant in another converted factory building overlooking a canal and waterfall in the downtown. That building was originally the home of the city's power plant. 1999 saw the opening of the Keene, New Hampshire, Margaritas on Main Street in one of the oldest buildings in the city, the birthplace of the mother of Henry David Thoreau.
The Manchester, New Hampshire Margaritas opened in early 2001. East Hartford, Connecticut followed in 2002. Then came Salem, New Hampshire, and Waltham, the first location in Massachusetts in 2003. Lebanon, New Hampshire opened in 2004, Exeter in 2005. Revere, Massachusetts in 2006, and Weymouth in 2007. In 2007, MMG sold the Mansfield and the Branford locations to back to Kukai, Inc. Margaritas then opened restaurants in Dover, New Hampshire in 2008, Lexington, Massachusetts in 2009, and Framingham and Medford, Massachusetts in 2010.
Margaritas opened a franchise location in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, in October 2012 and in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, in June 2013. Additional franchises are slated for Collegeville, Pennsylvania, and Wilmington, Delaware. As of June 2013, there are 22 company-owned Margaritas Mexican Restaurants.
In April 2015, Margaritas opened their 7th company-owned Massachusetts location in Methuen in The Loop shopping center.