After working as a chef at Tequilas Restaurant, opening a Mexican food truck was “like a dream” for Celia Jiménez and her siblings Dionicio and Esperaza Jiménez.
Since introducing their menu to Main Campus, the Jiménezes hoped to break even after opening El Guero last fall on Montgomery Avenue near 13th Street. But as the COVID-19 pandemic forced their business to close and find temporary jobs, the family is unsure if they can make up first-year operating expenses or remain in business after reopening for the fall semester.
After closing in the spring to August due to COVID-19 shutdowns, the Jiménezes wanted to keep their truck open for the summer, but couldn’t afford to, Dionicio Jiménez said. Instead, they spent the summer working in construction and cleaning jobs.
“It was terrible, because we hoped those months we closed, that’s the months we’re gonna make our money,” Dionicio Jiménez added.
The Jiménezes hoped they would have more sales during the first few weeks of the semester, but so far business has been unpredictable and sporadic, Dionicio Jiménez said.
“We don’t know what to do about that,” Dionicio Jiménez said. “So still, I don’t know, I don’t know how to feel to be honest.”
After the majority of Temple University’s classes moved online on Sept. 3, business decreased even more, Celia Jiménez said. Although they have regular customers, they are still struggling, she added.
“Before we had more people, like everyday, all day, we see like many people,” Celia Jiménez said. “Now, we see like one people in 30 minutes or in one hour.”
El Guero plans to remain open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m to 6 p.m for the rest of the semester and they hope to attract customers from surrounding neighborhoods, Dionicio Jiménez said.
They have also increased their presence on social media by making videos and putting up flyers around the neighborhood to promote El Guero, he added.
Troy Simpson, a senior finance major, visits El Guero every two weeks and thinks it’s the best Mexican food he’s tried, he said.
“They’re super consistent,” Simpson said. “It’s reasonably priced. The people who work there are really nice.”
Angelica Pinon, a junior statistical science and data analytics major, eats at the truck almost every day. She is worried about small businesses in Philadelphia because many of them are family-owned and struggling due to the COVID-19 shutdown starting in March.
“They really depend on the people, you know,” Pinon said. “They’re not like big franchises, they depend on our money.”
For now, the Jiménezes are focusing on making enough sales this semester, because it’s difficult to predict how business will be day to day, Dionicio Jiménez said.
“It slows down, and you get ready for the following day because you think it’s going to be busy and people, there is like nothing,” he added.
They hope to gain steady business like they did when they first opened, Dionicio Jiménez said.
“We did it once, and we can do it twice,” he said.