Everyday, students line up outside of Good Karma and Philly Connection in attempt to grab lunch before their next class. However, they may not be aware of the family ties.
Sunel and Sonia Merchant are the owners of Philly Connection. According to their son, Sunny Merchant, they have been serving the Auburn community for several years.
“My parents have owned the Philly Connection in Auburn for the past 15 years; they will be celebrating their 15-year anniversary this August,” Merchant said. “They started running the food truck about four years ago and have enjoyed it ever since.”
Sunny decided to open Good Karma after graduating from Ohio State University this past year. He said he was inspired to come back to Auburn and work in the community after experiencing a life-threatening event where he was held at gunpoint.
“People in Ohio who had heard about the incident would come to check up on me,” Sunny said. “I was really surprised because I didn’t know a lot of these people like that. The encounter changed my perspective on how community members can make an impact on one another, even with small interactions.”
The two food trucks offer different selections of cuisine for customers. Philly Connection serves a variety of cheesesteaks, including original, plain jane and chicken cheese. Good Karma is Indian-inspired, offering foods such as chicken tikka, garlic naan and mango lassi.
His decision to open Good Karma was also inspired by Sunny’s father, who showed him what it meant to help others.
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“[My dad] was like, ‘What brings more people together more than good food?’” Sunny said.
This statement was so significant to Sunny that it is now painted on the side of Good Karma’s food truck.
Sunny also said that his mom has been a huge addition to the success of his business despite her also encouraging some friendly competition between the two trucks.
“Just this morning, my mom called me to put an ingredient I always forget in the dahl,” Sunny said. “She also told me that they were beating us in sales by about a hundred dollars, and I was like, ‘What, already?’”
Although they joke with each other, Sunny said the family is always there to lend a hand at whatever truck needs assistance, something he greatly appreciates.
“There is some rivalry in the house, but it is all love,” Sunny said. “For me, I could not have created Good Karma or faced all of the challenges that come with opening a brand-new restaurant without the support and guidance of my parents.” Comparing sales at the end of the day gives us the opportunity and motivation to keep improving and trying new things to get more friends to our trucks.”
Not only do the Merchants constantly keep up with each other’s businesses throughout the day, but all of the food trucks tend to look out for each other, Sunny said.
“There have been times that I have run out of propane, serving bowls, bags, and when I asked for help from another truck, they, without hesitation, offered whatever help they could … It feels like we are all one big food truck family,” he said.
The food trucks have overall had a positive impact on not only himself, but on the community, he said.
“It does feel good when we get ahead of them," he said. "It brings me to tears sometimes thinking about how many people love the food and love Good Karma.”
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