The grand opening of YiFang Taiwan Fruit Tea, located in Progress Plaza on Broad Street near Jefferson, is a dream over two years in the making for Jay Hu.
“It feels very surreal,” said Hu, manager of YiFang Taiwan Fruit Tea. “It feels like I’m still dreaming.”
As the Temple University community adjusts to the return of primarily in-person operations and rebounds from the COVID-19 pandemic, new food vendors feel excited and optimistic about opening their businesses on and near Main Campus.
Hu chose to open YiFang Taiwan Fruit Tea on Main Campus because she felt the area was missing a tea shop with fresh and organic ingredients. She hopes the shop will serve as a place for students to socialize and study.
“I am someone who cares about what goes into my body, and [YiFang] is really what brings that energy,” Hu said.
Hu first wanted to open her shop in 2020, but delayed to July 17 amid COVID-19 regulations like social distancing and indoor dining capacity limits. Business at YiFang have been busy since the start of the Fall 2021 semester, and Hu plans to increase the shop’s presence in the Temple community, like offering a Fall Special 50% off of selected drinks from Oct 12 to Oct 24.
While Hu had long-awaited opening her business, Aaron Jordan never intended to become the owner of Caribbean Feast Food Truck, a new food truck on 13th Street near Montgomery Avenue in June 2021.
“None of this was in my plan because it’s God’s plan,” Jordan said. “He wanted me to be a chef.”
Jordan stumbled upon a hiring position at Caribbean Feast Cuisine restaurant on Rising Sun Avenue and near Watts Street, which gave him the opportunity to open a Caribbean Feast food truck of his own.
While this was not the path Jordan saw for himself, he is grateful for the way things panned out and appreciates the friendliness of customers and the Temple community, he said.
“I just like to see people happy,” Jordan said. “[Being here] has been a real neighbory experience.”
Rather than opening a new business, Nicole Belican was inspired to revamp her business, formerly known as Brother’s Pizza, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Located on 12th Street near Norris, Belican decided to rebrand her business as Squared2 Pizza after drawing inspiration from pizza shop menus in New York City while traveling during the pandemic. She felt the truck’s old menu, which consisted of round pizza slices, wraps, burgers and sandwiches, was average and repetitive, she said.
“I really want to push the concept of, you know, our slices are not just an average pepperoni slice,” Belican said. “We try to make it a little more special.”
The food truck is now a sleek, gray color with wood paneling and shelves bordering the service window. This change has interested many students passing by, Belican said.
As part of the rebrand, she also began offering a rotating daily menu of slices, a concept not often seen at other businesses on campus, she said.
To gain feedback about their menu, she created an Instagram account for the truck, where she posts pictures for students to vote on which slices they want to see on the menu.
Belican was nervous about how receptive students would be to the rebranding and new menu, but her worries were immediately eased after their reopening on Aug. 23. Business is booming, and Squared2 Pizza already catered a few events on campus, Belican said.
“Even if they don’t [purchase a slice], I’m just happy that [the truck’s] able to make an impact where they can stop and say it’s so beautiful and look at the slice,” Belican said.
Like Belican, Hu appreciates learning about her customers, she said.
“I’m becoming part of the community, and they’re welcoming us as much as we are welcoming them,” Hu said. “I want to continue to get to know the community more, and I hope to expand this brand out to more people.”