By Lynn Spencer
Photos by Stan Gurka
They say love is at the root of many things we do in life. For Sophie Abell, that couldn’t be truer. The native Texan moved to Indiana 13 years ago to get married. Among the items packed away in her moving boxes was a salsa recipe she’s had for more than 30 years.
“It was given to me by a woman from Mexico and I’ve tweaked it and added to it over the years. I had a home based business and sold the salsa mainly to friends and families,” Abell said. “It was something I could do when the kids were growing up. It was very successful there, but I’ve had huge success with the salsa here.”
That success started at area farmer’s markets.
Started with Salsa
“I came here and discovered farmer’s markets and knew I’d love to be a vendor. It’s a place where everyone is passionate about their product,” Abell said. “No one gets up in morning and say ‘Oh, I have to go to the farmer’s market.’ Everyone loves it and loves the atmosphere.”
She set up shop at the Westfield Farmer’s Market, named her business Texy Mexy, and started selling her salsa – appropriately named Sophie’s Salsa.
“Day one started in Westfield and we were sampling the salsa and it was just flying out. My husband (Gerry) and I looked at each other and knew we were on to something. We transitioned to the Noblesville farmer’s market, evolved to two tents with salsa and tamales and then readymade food and had lines and were running out of food,” she said. “We entertained starting a food truck for a little bit but decided it just wasn’t a direction we thought business wise would be a good decision.”
So, after nine years at the farmer’s market, and customers asking when they’d open up a restaurant, the couple decided to take the plunge. They lucked into a location on the square in downtown Noblesville and, in October 2018, opened their doors at 818 Logan St.
The design prominently features the original brick walls, which had been covered in plaster for 50 years.
“With the (brick) walls we don’t have a lot of art because they are the art of the space and I wanted to highlight that,” Abell said. “We have an open concept kitchen so when you come in you can see us cooking, and a small bar. It’s not a typical Mexican restaurant design – it has more of a modern feel in here.”
The Texy Mexy menu has evolved, Abell said, because she doesn’t have the limitations of the farmer’s market. Customer favorites – besides her award winning salsa (2006 at the Noblesville Farmer’s Market and 2018 at the Salsa for Salsa competition at Federal Hills Commons) – include hand crafted tacos.
“We are doing a squash taco that everyone is loving – it’s gone over really well,” she said. “We roast everything in house, everything is prepped fresh daily so when you come in you get fresh product.”
Then, there are the tamales, which Sophie’s mom taught her to make when she was 13.
“Tamale making is a skill because it’s not easy to do but I’ve taken it on and continued her legacy,” Abell said. “The tamales you get here are a true Texas tamale, which can be different depending on the region of the country they’re made.”
Taco vs Tech
Customer service is extremely important to Abell. To that end, she started Taco vs. Technology nights on Wednesdays as a way to encourage families to put away their devices and spend the evening talking.
“We take a container to the table and everyone puts their devices in it and there are cards to use as conversation starters. The goal is no one picks up their devices during the entire meal and at the end of the night we give free ice cream,” Abell said. “The kids love it and are loving the conversation - which is really more of the goal instead of being on a device to keep them entertained.”
Despite the steady flow of customers, Abell continues to be surprised at Texy Mexy’s success.
“It’s absolutely humbling and surreal that people actually come in and eat my food and keep coming back,” she said. “You just don’t take it for granted.”