PHILADELPHIA – Dean and Deb Varvoutis have been operating Magic Carpet Foods since 1984, but the pandemic threatened the very existence of the popular food cart, which serves a mix of vegan and vegetarian dishes from various cuisines, including Greek, Mexican and Middle Eastern. Varvoutis launched a GoFundMe campaign on October 4 to save the beloved food business, a staple at the University of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Gazette reported.
According to Varvoutis’ GoFundMe page, “The first morning we headed out from the Magic Carpet kitchen with our food cart in tow, we were filled with optimism at the prospect of bringing our vegetarian, whole-world cuisine to the streets of Philadelphia.
“Once on location, we discovered that the food had not been secured during the drive and was now plastered over the walls, ceiling, and floor of the cart. Cleaning up took the entire morning and through lunch, and our opening day sales of $7 left us somewhat uncertain what the future would hold.
“What the future held was over thirty-five years of serving healthy food and happy customers. We've watched hospital and university staff and faculty start careers, families, and retirements. We've fed students who came on the first day of classes saying that their parents had eaten with us every day when they were students. As the rest of the country discovered the value of vegetarian and ethnic cuisines and the ease and joy of food trucks, we watched the knowing look in this community's eyes that said, ‘we've known this all along.’
“The last six months have returned us to that feeling of uncertainty from our first day in the cart. As a two-week closure slowly extended into five months and the world expanded its understanding of what precautions are necessary going forward, it became very clear that Magic Carpet could not move forward with business as usual.
Beyond providing healthy, vegetarian fare, our primary goal has always been to create your meals in a spotless, professional-level kitchen while still keeping our prices in line with the rest of the vendors on the street. Over the years, we have been able to maintain this balance because of our customers. We worked fast and we served a lot of you each day. Now, with campuses closed and many people working from home, the numbers aren't quite adding up. Even with local and federal assistance, limited staff, and an amazingly supportive community, it doesn't seem likely that Magic Carpet will be able to weather this pandemic, especially while keeping our food affordable for those who count on it.
“That is why we are asking for your help. The goal of this fundraiser is to help offset the costs associated with our business until we are able to return to a more normal state. Since there is no way of predicting when that will be, any and all help is greatly appreciated. If it turns out that we raise more than is needed, we will find a way to return that generosity to the community as effectively as possible.
Thank you and stay healthy,
Dean and Deb”
In an update posted on the GoFundMe page, Varvoutis wrote, “As of the 19th of January both university locations have reopened. We are in support of the community effort to bring about some semblance of normalcy to life on campus. Our fundraiser will remain ongoing at least until the projected comeback of September 2021. Thanks again for the overwhelming support and good wishes. We love the stories!!!”
As of February 8, the campaign has raised $22,903 of the $100,000 goal.
More information is available online: https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-save-magic-carpet-foods.