After having to close down his family’s restaurant in South Philadelphia three years ago, Justino Jimenez took up a job as head chef at Kanella Grill, a Mediterranean restaurant in Washington Square West.
He then heard about a food truck for sale from a family friend but was nervous to leave his well-paying job.
“As a head chef you’re making good money,” Justino Jimenez said. “Whether you sell or not you’re going to have your money. When you have your own business if you don’t sell you have to think about paying your bills, but I took the risk and now we’re here.”
Now, Justino Jimenez and his wife Susana Jimenez are giving running a business a second try, and opened Los Jimenez, a family-run Mexican food truck on 12th Street near Polett Walk, three months ago.
Although they have only been on campus for a short period of time, the Jimenez family has already seen a few regular customers, some who visit five days a week.
“What makes me happy is that last week a girl came in and she says ‘How long you guys been here?’ I say, ‘Three months.’ She says, ‘Wow, everyone’s talking about you guys,’” Justino Jimenez said.
Lesly Jimenez, Justino Jimenez’s 22-year-old daughter, helps out at the truck.
Their previous location wasn’t good for business, she said, but being on a college campus has garnered more attention for their food.
“It’s going well so far,” she added. “We just started and got a couple of decent amount of people coming in, and everyone seems to enjoy it.”
Susana Jimenez usually takes care of the truck’s finances and takes customers’ orders, and Justino Jimenez usually focuses on the cooking.
“We know that whatever we’re making here, it’s what we need to pay the bills, it’s what we need to pay the house,” Justino Jimenez said.
Irene John, a freshman biology major, said she first ate at Los Jimenez with a friend in the summer and likes the truck’s chorizo tacos.
“It’s really cheap and worth the price because it’s filling,” John said. “They’re really nice and sweet people.”
Felix Flores, coordinator of Graduate Student Services at the College of Engineering said the price of the food at Los Jimenez doesn’t matter to him because he enjoys it so much.
“I always order the breakfast burrito. I actually don’t know the price, but I don’t care,” he said.
Knowing when to shift roles from family to coworkers can affect the family’s dynamic, but the key to working together is communication, Justino Jimenez said.
“Sometimes there are families that know how to get along and work well together, sometimes there isn’t,” Lesly Jimenez said. “We’re the type of family that knows how to work well together.”
While their family took a risk deciding to leave a well-paying job to start a business that could have failed, Jimenez said it’s not difficult because he knows it’s what he has to do to pay the bills.
“Maybe another year, it’s going to be a different story,” he added. “But…it’s worth the risk.”