ashland.news
July 23, 2024

Talent’s Pump House was popular — why’d it become the Rogue Taqueria?

Jeven Showers, co-owner of the Rogue Taqueria, stands underneath the local landmark car-on-a-pole at 102 Talent Ave. Ashland.news photo by Morgan Rothborne
October 16, 2023

Co-owner explains economics weren’t working, and synergies with sister restaurant Taqueria Pícaro in Ashland make sense

By Morgan Rothborne, Ashland.news

The change was about survival, said Jeven Showers, co-owner of the former Pump House burger and fries restaurant in Talent, now the Rogue Taqueria Mexican restaurant. 

Sitting at a table under the familiar shadow of the red, white and blue car mounted on a pole at 102 Talent Ave., he was blunt about the reason for the radical change. 

“It sucks. We loved the Pump House. It was our vision — what we wanted to bring home,” he said. 

The Rogue Taqueria logo

Many customers saw full tables and assumed the popularity of the beloved burger spot was enough. But revenue didn’t match costs.

“COVID killed us, the fires killed us, the labor shortage killed us. … If we didn’t do something, we were going to go out of business,” Showers said.  

He and co-owner Garth Evey had poured their personal funds into the Pump House to try to keep it afloat — cash infusions as steep as $50,000 weren’t enough, he said. To keep serving made-to-order burgers and fries would have meant a price hike as high as potentially $20 a burger. The business partners decided to close their doors, remodel, rebrand and reopen with the hope of a rebirth.

“I want this to be a survival story. So many businesses have closed in the valley over the last four years,” he said. 

Because Showers owns Taqueria Pícaro on Pioneer Street in Ashland, creating a sister restaurant named Rogue Taqueria — pícaro means rogue in Spanish — translated to greater stability overall. The two taquerias can pull from the same already trained pool of staff and order ingredients in greater bulk, all leading to a lower price point on the menu.

Jeven Showers, co-owner of Rogue Taqueria, sits at one of its new tables. Ashland.news photo by Morgan Rothborne

The previous made-to-order model was also time consuming. Working people looking for a lunch break couldn’t afford to wait 45 minutes for a burger. The new menu of slow cooked meats and other largely made ahead menu items allows for an assembly kitchen, he said — orders can move from register to kitchen to a customer’s table in half the time.

The transformation has left some residents of Talent and former customers confused, even angry. Showers said he has tried to ignore the most vitriolic responses and rumors on social media. A claim has circulated that large groups of high school kids were suddenly laid off. Yes, a few members of the kitchen staff were laid off, but not without two weeks’ notice, and most staff kept their jobs, he said. 

Another common complaint, he said, is that the city of Talent has many Mexican food trucks owned by Mexicans. Why should two white men open a Mexican restaurant? Showers stands behind his menu and those who cook it. 

“My staff are almost entirely Mexican and Guatemalan. … I consider myself a pretty good cook. I can’t cook Mexican food like a Mexican. It was the first time I ever let go of control of my kitchen,” he said of opening Taqueria Pícaro nearly a decade ago. 

The restaurant owner talks about why Pump House burger place in Talent underwent a transformation into a Mexican restaurant named the Rogue Taqueria.
The Taqueria Pícaro logo

He was proud of the food the new taqueria has to offer. 

“I love Mexican food. I eat it almost every day. My tell is the chips and salsa. If a place has good chips and salsa, then it has good food. And the hot sauce. I don’t want to toot our own horn — but we have some of the best chips and salsa. Our hot sauce will light you up, and it is so flavorful,” he said.

As a vegetarian and occasional fish-eater himself, Showers pointed to the healthier food on the new menu with more plant options and more flexibility. Almost anything on the menu can become vegetarian or vegan, but carnivores like Evey can find something too. Black bean tacos and potato tacos featuring seared sweet potatoes are listed alongside carne asada and al pastor on the menu. 

The restaurant also features a daily lunch special, a happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday and all day Tuesday. New flavors of margaritas have been added to the menu and, while the old beer list is intact, some Mexican beers have been added. 

The owners will continue to contribute to the community of Talent the way they have proudly done before, such as their recent support of an art project at Talent Elementary School, he said. 

The renovations to the space were subtle, focused more on cleanliness and longevity than cosmetics — new built-in tables around the front patio, a soon-to-be completed awning to allow for a heated outdoor space in the cold months to come. There were also some changes to the kitchen, such as the ovens needed to slow cook large batches of meat, and new concrete and improved drainage in the recycling, garbage and storage area behind the restaurant. 

From the outside, the colors are a little different. Inside, the space looks and feels almost the same. Mexican pop art may appear on the walls, but Showers said he and Evey, “didn’t want to change the vibe too much, it’s still us.” 

Email Ashland.news reporter Morgan Rothborne at morganr@ashland.news.

Picture of Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

Related Posts...

Latest posts

Obituary: Steven Maryanoff

Obituary: Steven Roy Maryanoff, beloved brother to Bruce Eliot Maryanoff and friend to many people around Ashland, passed away peacefully on June 18 at the age of 75 in his private home in Ashland. He was active in the Buddhist community in and around Ashland.

Read More >

Explore More...

Shakespeare’s "Coriolanus" hits the stage Tuesday at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Directed by Rosa Joshi, the play tells the story of a powerful yet starving population and a war hero turned politician.
Childcare providers have until Friday, July 26, to submit applications for Early Childhood Affordability Grant Program grants, according to an announcement by the city on Monday, July 22. The application period opened July 12, the release said.
A master plan tailor-made to guide the city of Ashland’s approach to homelessness was unanimously approved Thursday evening by the final committee standing between the plan and a review from Ashland City Council. A review of the master plan is scheduled for the Aug. 5 council study session. 
John Marciano: Violence at home and abroad is not antithetical to America, it has been its very nature since the founding.
Volunteers gathered Sunday morning in Railroad Park to make repairs to the Say Their Names memorial T-shirts along the fence by the park. it was the third or fourth Sunday in a row volunteers came to the park to slowly recreate the memorial for its fifth iteration.
ashland.news logo

Subscribe to the newsletter and get local news sent directly to your inbox.

(It’s free)

Don't Miss Our Top Stories

Get our newsletter delivered to your inbox three times a week.
It’s FREE and you can cancel anytime.