It’s just after midnight in Rutland Town and although the streets are relatively quiet, there’s a glow lighting up the area heading out of town on Route 7. The glow is coming from the 14 sets of headlights, waiting anxiously next to a big bell.
Taco Bell has sounded off, and Castleton State College students and the people of the Rutland region in general show no signs of letting up.
“Thank God we finally have a Taco Bell! Seriously, people have waited a long time for one and it’s doing well because I go every week,” said Castleton State College student and perennial Taco Bell all-star Nick Wood.
For nearly a decade, students and Rutlanders have been without a Mexican restaurant and the pain of being taco-less was rising. People would go extraordinary links to satisfy their cravings by driving 45 minutes away from home to go to the closest Taco Bell. Whether it was west to Queensbury, N.Y. or south to Bennington, nothing would stop people from piling on their vehicle’s mileage to buy a taco.
“I would drive to Bennington just to go to Taco Bell with my friends. It was always a fun road trip,” said Castleton State College student Jeremy Jackson.
Since Taco Bell’s grand opening on July 24, people have been buying their different varieties of tortilla, meat, cheese and vegetables much closer to home, only to find that the wait to actually eat one, was like being at the DMV.
“I went the second, or third day they opened and waited about 20 minutes in line after it took 20 minutes to get there. They screwed up my order. I ordered a chalupa and got a gordita and a taco and didn’t notice till I was back in Castleton,” Jackson said as his face turned red with anger.
And despite now being three months later, the wait has yet to die down at Taco Bell.
Monica Hawks, who works as a public relations representative for Taco Bell at the company’s corporate headquarters, was asked if it is normal for brand new locations to do as well as the one in Rutland.
“I hope they’re all busy and stay busy,” Hawks said with little enthusiasm, and seemingly eager to get off the phone.
While the Taco Bell official was less than interested in discussing this local phenomenon, students have strong opinions on the matter.
“I can’t believe that Rutland is hopping up and down because we have a Taco Bell. It must be embarrassing to wait in line 45 minutes just for a taco. I won’t go there if my life depended on it,” said student Dan Cook.
Cook said he is baffled at its success.
“It’s ridiculous for people to spend their time driving from Castleton into Rutland just for a burrito. I guess its okay to have gone when it first opened, but my friends are still going there like its some big secret that Taco Bell is the greatest thing ever,” Cook said with a grin on his face.
While some students seemed dead serious when they said Taco Bell is the greatest thing on earth, others said the fad will die out and this Taco Bell will suffer the same fate as the old one on the other end of town and shut down.
But while the new Taco Bell touching the taste buds and souls of hungry students, it is giving City Hall a grande meal sized stomachache.
“I just wish Taco Bell was actually in the middle of Rutland, rather than the outskirts. It is hurting businesses in downtown Rutland and their food isn’t even that great. It is still fast food right? I want to say it will die down and bring people to downtown more often, but it doesn’t look good,” said Rutland Mayor Christopher Louras, as he wolfed down his meatball parmesan sub from downtown’s local Italian restaurant, Sabby’s Pasta House.
But while Louras isn’t a fan, students say they not only like the food, but its low cost as well.
“I enjoy going there because it’s cheap. Even though you have to wait a long time to get what you want, it’s worth it because there isn’t anywhere else to go to get a taco,” said freshman Kaitlin Hall.
The Taco Bell phenomenon has certainly grabbed the attention of both satisfied students and those who wish it would ‘just stop.’ But at least until there is another Mexican restaurant with authentic food, Taco Bell will likely continue to flourish.
“What exactly is a ‘grande meal’ anyway?” (Mayor) Louras asked during the recent interview, with a grande-sized grin and puzzled look on his face.