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Lotts and Other UM Alums Bring Salsarita's to Oxford

Salsarita's will offer Mexican fare such as this burrito covered in queso
Salsarita’s will offer Mexican fare such as this burrito covered in queso

Several years ago, Trent Lott and son Chet had their radar up for potential business ventures, and in early 2015, Oxonians finally will get a taste of the fresh Mexican food concept they fell in love with. The Oxford location of Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina will be part of Highland Court, an upscale retail complex on West Jackson Avenue developed by the Blackburn Group, LLC, on the former Cannon Motors site.
“I was working with my dad in Washington and Senator John Breau and his son,” Chet recalls. “We’d been looking at different opportunities. Phil Friedman approached my dad to discuss a new restaurant. He was the brains behind the McAlister’s Deli expansion and selling of the McAlister’s brand. He had a non-compete, and during the non-compete he couldn’t act on anything, but he was looking for what was next. He found Salsarita’s. He liked the idea that the original owner is still involved, kind of like with McAlister’s.”
A Mexican tortilla pizza from Salsarita's
A Mexican tortilla pizza from Salsarita’s

Friedman’s Charlotte-based Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina started in 2000 and has expanded now to more than 80 stores. The brand’s aim is “building a dynamic and authentically inspired fast casual Mexican brand, offering delicious food that is made the way you want it and prepared every day in-house,” states its website. “From Wildly Addictive Chips our guests truly rave about, to queso, customizable burritos, tacos, salads, bowls, quesadillas, nachos, signature salsas and fresh-made guacamole, Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina thrives on making great Mexican fare fresh daily.”
The Lotts bought into the company and grew it in Charlotte with company stores and franchise stores, and began to turn an eye toward Mississippi and who they might find to open stores in the Magnolia State.
“Who knows Mississippi better than we do?” the Lotts thought, so they created another company for expansion here. Three current leases are already in place in Mississippi in Southaven, Starkville, and Oxford, and the stores will open in that order, with the Oxford restaurant slated to open in the first quarter of 2015. Madison will be the fourth location, and the group plans to eventually have eight to 10 stores in Mississippi.
“We’ve got a lot of Ole Miss folks involved,” says Lott, noting that Jackson attorney Barry Cannada is among the partners. “The developer of the Oxford site is David Blackburn, and the real estate broker is Joe Pegram. J. C. Clark was integral in McAlister’s and developed it outside the state, and is now back in Oxford.”
Lott has high hopes for Salsarita’s in Oxford and says it will attract locals and students alike.
“It’s casual but it’s nice,” he says. “You can actually sit down and eat. It will appeal to families.”
— Tad Wilkes, tad.wilkes@hottytoddy.com
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