Mother’s independent food truck at Temple contributes to familly legacy

Lilly Dzemaili, Richie Jr.’s mom, runs Richie’s Lunch Box, a food truck on Norris Street near 12th.

Lilly Dzemaili, Richie Jr.’s mom, stands inside Richie’s Lunch Box, a food truck on Norris Street near 13th, on Sept. 30, 2019. | ALEX ARMSTEAD / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Carrying a family legacy of serving food for 50 years takes a lot of work. While her son runs a popular food stand at The Wall, Lilly Dzemaili keeps the family tradition going with her own food truck.

Dzemaili, Richie Jr.’s mom, runs and owns Richie’s Lunch Box, a food truck that is a part of Main Campus’ chain of Richie’s breakfast and lunch spot locations. The truck offers breakfast, lunch and dinner options and is parked on Norris Street near 12th. 

The Richie’s sandwich shop brand has a total of three locations on campus, a food stand at The Wall, a cafe inside Kardon Atlantic Apartments and the food truck. The brand started 50 years ago on campus, where Richie Jr.’s grandfather started a “food pad” near Tuttleman Learning Center.

Dzemaili and her son opened Lunch Box in 2013 because they wanted to provide the Temple community with more Richie’s food. 

“I thought another location would give more back to the students,” she said. “We really want to try and take care of as many people as we can.” 

For Dzemaili, one of the greatest aspects about the truck is that she gets to be an “independent businesswoman,” she said. 

“I have done other businesses in the past, but Temple is my favorite because I have students, faculty members, workers, and I just love it,” she said. 

While she’s had various jobs around the Philadelphia area, she began working at the original Richie’s food stand when her husband died and Richie Jr. took over 20 years ago.

Although she loves working her own truck, Dzemaili said she still loves working side-by-side with her son. 

“He always wants to improve,” she said. “I told him, you know, ‘You already took it up 10 notches.’ But how many more notches can we improve? And his answer is, ‘As many as we can.’ He is always fresh with ideas.”

Richie Jr. said he enjoys working alongside his mom. For him, family is important and their love shows in the businesses they run together. 

The options at the truck and Richie’s at The Wall are similar, however, Dzemaili said that the vegetarian options at the truck are their biggest hit. 

The truck’s vegetarian menu includes six options, like a veggie burger, an “on pita bread meal,” which consists of pita topped with cucumber yogurt sauce, lettuce and tomato, a veggie bagel sandwich and a grilled veggie hoagie, among others.

Katie Harkins, a sophomore film and media arts major, said she goes to the truck for the grilled cheese while on her way to class. 

“I feel like a lot of people don’t get the lunch stuff because they usually get breakfast, but the grilled cheese is good,” she added. “It is a great option.” 

Steven Aronow, a senior marketing and media studies and production major, said he stops by because the food is healthy, the options are cheap and the truck is in a convenient spot. 

“I like to get something different every time,” he added. “Today, I got a chicken caesar wrap just to change it up, but last time I got a buffalo chicken wrap, and that was pretty good.”

Cameryn Downey, a sophomore film and media arts major, said she stops by regularly for a “classic” egg and cheese bagel sandwich. 

“I really like the people that work here because they are just super sweet,” Downey said. “The food is great and it is also really affordable. It is just a really overall good atmosphere.”

Seeing the success of her family’s business always brings a smile to Dzemaili’s face. 

“We do our own thing, but we help each other out when we need to,” she added. “I just love the way we run our businesses here, and I am just so grateful.”

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