R U Hungry? grease truck owner hopeful toward relocation, prepares move to Livingston campus
The Grease Trucks are not shutting down. That is the statement the University and the New Brunswick Development Corporation have continued to push after it was revealed the Grease Trucks would have to leave their current space before or on Aug. 15.
Ayman Elnaggar, owner of R U Hungry?, said he thought the University would at least give him and the other grease truck owners two to three months before they have to move from Lot 8, their location for over two decades.
“We were told July 12 that we have to empty the parking lot by Aug. 15,” Elnaggar said. “I just found out [yesterday] where I’m going to be … R U Hungry? will be on Livingston campus as a mobile truck. We have to move every day from the hours of 3 to 6 a.m. From 3 to 6 a.m., we are not allowed to be on campus.”
The change comes after the University made plans to build a new student residence building on Lot 8 with DEVCO last year as a part of the College Avenue Redevelopment Initiative.
“When I first heard the news I was upset, but I got over it quick because I know there is a change happening here,” he said. “You can’t stop that change and they already made the deal, it’s done. It wouldn’t help me to be upset. Actually it helped me not to be upset when I approached Rutgers.”
He said the University tried to accommodate him as much as possible, and he appreciates the fact that he has the opportunity to keep the trailer, stay in business, and stay open until 2 a.m. Elnaggar had to close his truck by 7 p.m. on Lot 8.
“Now I’m going to do delivery,” he said. “I’ve wanted to do delivery for a long time and now I think I can do it because I’m going to be open late at night so it’s a beautiful thing.”
What will replace the Grease Trucks is a new residence hall, which will include a u-shaped public plaza with retail on the ground floor, a boardwalk-style area with concession stands, and a 600 square-foot outdoor screen, said Chris Paladino, president of Project Development and Management at DEVCO.
As most of the space will be a lawn, the outdoor screen will be used to display football games and movies, Paladino said.
“We knew two years ago that they were about to do a change here, but we never knew what was going to happen,” Elnaggar said. “[The University is] not going to supply electricity. They won’t take care of anything for you. They’re just going to give you a spot and you have to move around.”
The trucks have been stationary for a long time, but Elnaggar said his is still mobile, though he will have to make a lot of changes to keep it running the way he wants it to.
“I’m keeping the same [trailer], just doing some alterations on the inside,” he said. “We need to get a special generator because the trailer is huge. But thank God at least they allowed me to [use] the trailer. They actually gave me an exception.”
His trailer has been serving University students for the past 10 years. When he first submitted his plan to the University 10 years ago, Elnaggar said University officials loved the idea, and so he built the trailer.
“And now I asked for them to give me an exception for the length because they wouldn’t allow anything bigger than 26 feet,” Elnaggar said. “This trailer is 33 [feet]. I don’t want to say the bigger the better but it has given me more leverage in serving the customers better and also you can have variety.”
Elnaggar was referring to how he is able to sell salads and wraps because of the extra room in his trailer. He hopes even with increasing variety, loyal customers to R U Hungry? will still come to his truck for the original experience.
“You know people think we are all the same,” he said. “We are not all the same, we are completely different entities. I’m not saying who’s better than who. I talk about R U Hungry? as the home of the number one sandwich in the country. “Man vs. Food” came to R U Hungry?, we’ve been in numerous media, magazines and newspapers.”
DEVCO needs the vendors out of Lot 8 so that they can begin roadwork, and rebuilding the Scott Hall bus stop before the fall semester begins. Construction is set to begin in September. The Scott Hall bus stop will move three-quarters of a block up College Avenue, toward the University’s Barnes and Noble, Paladino said.
Apart from reconstructing the bus shelter, the construction will include realignment of cross walks and reconstructed curb cuts.
“We want that two week period to make sure they are up and running,” Paladino said, referring to the Grease Trucks staying open and ready when the fall semester begins.
Elnaggar will be renovating the inside of his trailer completely, including the flooring and the equipment. He is also making a menu and a website, which will be periodically updated along with the R U Hungry? Facebook page. He said he hopes the trailer will serve the University for another 10 to 15 years.
R U Hungry? is set to move to 56 Joyce Kilmer Ave. on Livingston campus, but the location will not feature tables as it did on Lot 8. He also expects his expenses to continually rise.
“It’s going to be a lot of expenses, the expenses of the generator, the expenses of the diesel fuel used for the generator, all of the costs as far as renovating the trailer from inside, because you have to,” he said. “Now we have to run on propane … not electricity.”
Elnaggar couldn’t answer whether the relocation would hurt business, and he was not sure if he would be completely ready when the fall semester begins on Sept. 3.
“I’m going to do the best I can,” he said. “Today I got my thing in writing that they are giving me Livingston campus. Already everything was planned, I just didn’t know where I was going. I had to wait; I couldn’t buy the new truck until I knew I had to move every day, I didn’t know that for sure.”
The University will not pay for any costs of Elnaggar’s relocation or trailer expenses, he said. And Elnaggar estimates the cost to be around $60,000.
“I [am] willing to do whatever it takes because this is history, this is the home of the number one sandwich in the country, made in this trailer,” he said. “To build a new truck would be even more money.”
The future of his truck will ultimately depend on students and the University community, Elnaggar said.
“On our part, I have to do the best I can to make the best sandwiches ever,” he said. “I’m even going to add more things because I’m staying open late at night. … The great thing about R U Hungry? is that the success is 100 percent the students. They come up with the ideas, they come up with the names, they come up with the ingredients and we make it. That’s that.”