After a year of reduced hours and few customers, Long Nguyen is excited to be back cooking and serving food full-time on Temple University’s campus.
“I’m desperate to come back,” said Nguyen, owner and founder of the Fruit & Smoothie Truck on Montgomery Avenue between Broad and 13th streets. “I’m so happy to come back to serve students.”
Last year, food vendors across Main Campus struggled to maintain sales after the university switched to remote learning, causing many to temporarily shut down or close permanently. Now that classes are in person and students and faculty are back on campus, vendors are opening back up and hoping business returns to normal.
The Crepe Truck Philly, which has been stationed on Norris Street near 13th since 2013, attempted to open multiple times during the past year and a half but kept shutting down due to lack of income.
“We were literally spending more money to come here and stay open than what we were getting in,” said Penelope Kyriazis, co-owner of The Crepe Truck.
While sales are gradually increasing, they are not as steady as they were prior to the pandemic, as many students still have online or hybrid classes and are less inclined to come to campus for food, Kyriazis added.
“There’s not a lot of foot traffic like there used to be,” Kyriazis said. “So that has brought down business a little bit, but it’s still good, like, it’s worth it for us to be here.”
The Fruit & Smoothie Truck gained more business and attention this year but not nearly as much as previous years, said Nguyen, who is entering his 25th year on Main Campus. However, he’s still grateful to be back.
While vendors, like Nguyen and Kyriazis, hope to see the return of business as usual, other vendors are debuting their trucks and hoping to attract new customers.
Dev’s Indian Street Food Truck, a family business run by Tajinder Kaur, her sister, Amandeep Kaur, and her brother-in-law, Baldev Singh, held their grand opening on Aug. 16, one week before the start of the Fall 2021 semester.
Business at Dev’s is really good, Tajinder Kaur said. Customers have visited their location at West Montgomery and N. 10th streets every day, making Kaur hopeful business levels will remain steady throughout the year.
“Morning we are busy, afternoon also,” Kaur said. “Students are loving it, and other people and teachers are loving it too.”
Priya Mehta, a senior health information management major, and Adrien Van Voorhis, a sophomore political science and history double major, feel they have a responsibility to buy from vendors and help keep their businesses afloat.
Mehta is new to Temple’s campus this year but plans to frequent the different vendors as often as possible, she said.
“We’re the only support they’re going to get,” said Mehta. “If it weren’t for us, these small businesses would be struggling big time.”
Supporting food trucks around campus feels better than supporting chain restaurants, because it connects students more to the community, Van Voorhis said.
As the school year progresses, Kyriazis is hopeful that customers and sales will continue increasing and The Crepe Truck can remain in business for as long as possible. “I’m hoping this spring when, maybe like, more people feel comfortable coming on campus, then I think it’ll be busier,” Kyriazis said.