Temple has a long list of celebrities that it can call its own – Bill Cosby, Hall and Oates, Tamron Hall and many other notable Owls. But perhaps one of the most well-known faces to ever grace Temple’s campus isn’t a musician or TV personality – it’s Richie Jr.
If you visit the food pad at 12th Street and Polett Walk on a weekday, you’ll almost always see a long line outside of Richie’s Deli and Pizza. With a business that started small and has been in his family since the 1960s, Richie said the happiness and satisfaction of the customers is something that has always been just as important to him as his own success.
“The greatest thing about my job is the students, not the money,” Richie said. “Every semester there’s new students to meet. Whether they’re artists or business majors, they’re people who are going to be something someday. I want to be the best that I can be for them.”
Richie’s presence is also well-known in the social media world. He’s constantly tweeting, posting pictures of mouthwatering food on Instagram and adding friends on Facebook. His website, iloveriches.com, lets students place orders online so they can quickly grab a sandwich and juice on the way to class. Although he delights in making everyone near and far from campus wish they were at Temple enjoying a wrap or a cup of coffee, he wants to communicate with his followers on a personal level as well.
“I love shouting out [to] the groups of incoming freshmen so they can get to know me,” Richie said. “I like to keep in contact with Temple alumni as well. Over spring break, I tweeted that I was in London and some Temple London students reached out to me on Twitter and we got together. It [was] so crazy.”
Keeping in touch with former Owls is important to Richie because the business got its start right on Temple’s campus. At a time when Richie says there was nowhere on campus to take a break or eat, Richie’s grandfather opened a lunch cart, and business boomed from there. The entire family got involved, and in the 1970s Richie’s parents established a lunch truck in an empty lot where the Tuttleman Learning Center now stands.
“I grew up with it and into it in the North Philly area,” Richie said about the business. “My dad was so driven, and open seven days a week, all the time. We’ve always been a family-oriented business and if you needed something, we were there. Temple has a family feel between the vendors, workers and students and I love that.”
Many students have said that they feel the love from Richie and they’re grateful for the personal touch of the conversations that often occur as they order their food. Tyler Lutz, a senior finance major, has been eating at Richie’s since his freshman year and said he appreciates Richie’s disposition.
“Richie is a true-blue guy that respects his customers. His business offers superior service and superior food with a smile,” Lutz said.
Junior advertising major Sarah Shur said she enjoys stopping by Richie’s, even when it’s during a hectic time of day.
“He’s busy no matter what, and he runs a great business,” Shur said. “I love him and his food. He’s an awesome person.”
Richie has always lived and worked with his parents. His dad, Richie Sr., is retired but often visits the business. Richie Sr. wanted to come back to the Temple lunch scene, so he and Richie Jr. opened a lunch truck called Richie’s Lunch Box, located on Norris Street in front of the Tyler School of Art. The truck is typically open for a few hours a day.
“I take care of my parents and I’m so appreciative of them,” Richie said. “There have been rumors that my dad and I are competing and don’t get along. That’s not true and I’m insulted that anyone would think that.”
Being from the Philadelphia area and working in North Philadelphia from a young age, Richie has interesting stories to share – from students leaving campus to go to the parade after the Phillies World Series victory to visits from Philadelphia Eagles football players. Even with all of the excitement, Richie said his favorite experience has been the expansion of Temple and of the family business as well.
“So much happens that I can’t even remember half of it,” Richie said. “I love looking back on how many friends I’ve made and the love I get from them. Seeing where everyone goes from here, whether they’re news anchors, councilmen, celebrities or whatever, is amazing.”
If you visit Richie on a daily or weekly basis, it most likely means that he knows your face and your order as soon as he spots you. Many people wonder how this is possible, but Richie said he believes that it all just comes with the territory and the way he runs his business.
“I’m grateful, and it makes me want to remember who supports me in what I do,” Richie said. “I may not recognize you right away if I see you on the street somewhere, but when I’m at Richie’s and I have my game face on, it’s just the way my mind works.”
Outside of work, Richie enjoys having time to partake in various activities. He enjoys collecting cars, attending car shows, going out in Center City, traveling and riding motorcycles. During the fall and spring semesters, he concentrates on keeping busy and staying refreshed for the business and the customers.
“I’m happy with where I am and what I do, and I want to give as much as I can to my guests,” Richie said. “If I had the opportunity to pick any place to be, it would be at Temple with all of you guys.”
Ariane Pepsin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.