Courtesy of the Harding Bison.

Tacker’s Shake Shack of Marion, Arkansas, announced plans to open a new location in the University’s Student Center on their Facebook page on Dec. 22. As of Jan. 19, the Tackers plan to hold a grand opening the week of Jan. 31. The new location will replace Tu Taco in the pit of the Student Center.

Tacker’s Shake Shack will work in conjunction with Chartwells and feature Searcy’s own Yarnell’s ice cream in milkshakes and other handmade desserts. The Student Center location will offer hand-crafted hamburgers and fries, as well, upon the installation of a new vent hood, projected for mid-February. Students will be able to spend their declining credit balance, as well as cash or card at this location.

The late John Tacker and his wife Loretta Tacker opened Tacker’s Shake Shack in Marion in October 1977, after purchasing the Tastee-Freez location in town. Loretta, as well as her children, Jeff Tacker and Lisa Tacker Taylor, have continued the family business alongside their children.

Loretta was the 2019 winner of the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame “Proprietor of the Year,” and her peanut brittle has been featured in a Southern Living cookbook. Loretta is affectionately known as “Memaw,” to her family, friends and long-time customers who have become her close friends. One of her favorite long-time customers was former University president Clifton L. Ganus. Loretta said he would stop by Tacker’s Shake Shack anytime he flew out of Memphis, Tennessee, to travel to one of his overseas missions trips.

“If we were to have a picture of who the matriarch is on the restaurant, it would be Memaw,” Jeff said. “She’s held the family together, and her recipes have kept people coming back time and time again.”

John and Loretta attended Harding from 1966-1970; Jeff began at the University in 1987, and Lisa in 1989, where both siblings graduated and met their spouses. Of Loretta’s five grandchildren, four have attended Harding.

Senior Josh Tacker, the youngest Tacker grandchild, worked at his family’s restaurant all through high school. During his junior year, he said he pitched the idea of opening a location on campus to his family over winter break.

“I came here and didn’t really want any part of [the restaurant],” Josh said. “Which is kind of weird, because I have been a part of it my whole life — but then, I saw an opportunity for my dad right here.”

Mark Tacker, Josh’s older brother, has served as head chef at Tacker’s Shake Shack for the past several years.

“Being a servant is a big part of how I view this business — serving people good food at a good price, and being able to make someone else’s day better with a great shake or a great burger,” Mark said.

Mark said that when he was 16 years old, he created the line of unique burgers that Tacker’s Shake Shack is now known for — with toppings ranging anywhere from cheese sticks to hot dogs to barbeque.

“My dad has helped me out on the business side — promoting, managing, teaching me a lot of the business side,” Mark said. “As far as cooking goes, I have to teach him.”

Both Mark and Jeff said this new location was a great step for their overall progress as a franchise.

Jeff said the hiring process for the new location is ongoing. Applications can be found on the restaurant’s website, or requested in person at either location. Mark said no experience is required to apply.

“I look at it like the movie, ‘Ratatouille,’” Mark said. “Anyone can cook, it’s all about just learning how.”