Feed Our Food Workers: Popular Temple University take-out spot barely surviving pandemic

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- "Chicken finger wrap! Chicken fingers! Sausage egg and cheese! Sausage bagel hash brown!" Richie Huntzinger Jr., the 3rd generation owner of "Richie's," yelled out of his take out window.

If you've ever spent a day on Temple University's campus, you probably heard of Richie. If you've ever ordered anything from Richie, you can guarantee he knows you.

"I just believe in the loyalty. Word of mouth. And you saw we had regulars here. We had generational people, my father's customers, my grandfather's customers)

A lot of them, like Steven Nisenfeld - who first visited Richie's in the '70s - still come back.

"I always think about them struggling. I don't know how they stay open," said Nisenfeld, who visited Richie's on a trip to Philadelphia from Ventnor, New Jersey.

Richie says it's because of customers like Steven.

"The worst summer or the worst day doesn't compare to what COVID has done for businesses, especially on campus at Temple University," said Richie.

He's lost 80 percent of his business since the pandemic.

"It's 12 o'clock and you see that no one's even around for lunch," he said.

The university hasn't had full, in-person learning since March 2020. For Richie, that means most of his customer base is gone, except for regulars.

He closed all three of his stores for five months, and one has never reopened. He's scaled back on hours, is no longer open on weekends, and splits shifts among 15 hourly employees in order to keep all of them working.

Richie, however, calls himself lucky. Other food trucks on campus are shuttered, and one popular bar nearby is closing after 20 years.

"Just that it's a good culture, good community with the good students that come. He has a crew of regulars," said Bryan Trainor, a senior at Temple who has been coming to Richie's since his freshman year.

Richie has spent the last year in survival mode, but he knows he'll pull through.

"Whenever they see us on T, hopefully, they come support us on Monday. So that's, that's a lot of love," he said.
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