Temple food vendors hopeful in-person fall brings relief

Temple’s increased campus activity in Fall 2021 gives vendors hope for more business.

Justino Jimenez, owner of Los Jimenez food truck, stands inside the truck on 12th Street near Norris on March 29. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Before students left campus in Spring 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Penelope Kyriazis spent her days busily working beside three other people in The Crepe Truck Philly. 

Now, with only one or two workers in the truck, she’s spent the last year watching and waiting for students from the truck window on Norris Street near 13th.

“That’s how slow we are,” said Kyriazis, part-owner of The Crepe Truck Philly. “We’re very excited for everyone to come back in September.”

As warmer weather rolls in and more students are outside on campus, food vendors hope business will increase during the Spring 2021 semester. With the university planning to hold a majority of classes in person for the Fall 2021 semester, restaurants, food trucks and stands around Temple University anticipate steady business returning in the coming months.

While spring weather increased business for The Crepe Truck Philly, it’s still only about 10 percent of what they made before campus closed last spring. It’s difficult for three full-time employees to support themselves, Kyriazis said.  

“We’re all supporting ourselves with one truck, usually it’s more than enough, but now it’s like nothing,” Kyriazis said. “So it’s been tough, it’s been really tough.”

Dien Dinh, the owner of Tommy’s Lunch Truck on Norris Street near Liacouras Walk, said business picked up in March, but he still closes early at 3 p.m. because of the lack of student traffic. Dinh thinks business will improve during the Fall 2021 semester, he added.

“Next semester, maybe full time, right? Get open, get more hours,” Dinh said. “I work here a long time, I see when I’m open how a lot of students go around here.”

Justino Jimenez, the owner of Los Jimenez located at 12th Street near Polett Walk, reopened for the first time since last year in February, and so far, business has been “up and down,” he said.

He started working at BTS Food L.L.C., a food distribution center in Philadelphia and New Jersey, when he wasn’t sure when he could reopen the truck. He’s looking forward to operating full time in the spring, he added.

“I’m ready for it, I can’t wait because right now I’m working, I have a job plus I’m doing this, so it’s kind of like, hard, you know what I mean?” Jimenez said. “Basically I’m working double to survive with this with this being slow.”

Fall 2021 classes will be held in a limited number of campus classrooms, and Temple will continue to have online courses for those who need or prefer them, The Temple News reported.

Jennifer Paek, the owner of the Honey food truck on 12th Street near Norris, is ready for students to return in September, she said.

Paek’s also nervous about large numbers of students returning to campus, she added.

“Well as a business owner, yeah I’m happy, but I’m a little concerned because of COVID, if a lot of gatherings will be happening if schools open,” Paek said. 

Natalie Insinna, a junior psychology and Italian major, orders from food trucks at least once a week to support small businesses on campus. 

“A lot of them have shut down, which is really sad, but I’m hoping that next semester because we’re in person again, they’ll pick back up and stuff,” Insinna said. 

Kyriazis is also excited to see more students around campus, something she’s missed throughout the past year, she said. 

With more students on campus, Kyriazis thinks life might feel a little more normal, she said.

“It’s been a weird, scary year, and it’s been hard for everyone, but also especially small businesses, especially businesses that are on college campuses,”  Kyriazis said. “Even on the walk, no one’s really open, no one’s really busy.”

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