Joel Dunlap fell in love with the restaurant business when he flipped his first hamburger at his McDonald’s job at the age of 14. Last fall, the Philadelphia native graduated magna cum laude from UALR with a major in marketing and went back to his first love.
“I’ve worked various desk jobs and nothing seemed to be my fit,” he said.
Today, the entrepreneur is expanding his family’s North Little Rock bistro – Rocky’s Pub in the Indian Hills Shopping Center – by joining central Arkansas’s growing fleet of food trucks. Dunlap is preparing and selling authentic Philly cheesesteaks from his Philly’s To Go food cart based at the 4Corners marketplace at the corner of University and Asher avenues.
“I grew up in Philly my whole life and have been in the restaurant business for over 10 years, mostly in the pizza, sandwich, cheesesteak joints in the area where I lived,” he said. “I have to say it was one of the most fun times I ever had. All my buddies from school worked there with me.”
When the economy went sour in the middle of his senior year in high school, Dunlap and his family relocated to Sheridan, Ark. It was somewhat of a culture shock.
“Once we made it here, it was apparent that we ‘were not in Kansas anymore’ and realized that there were no places to get cheesesteaks,” he said. “So we decided to open our own restaurant selling cheesesteaks and other Italian delights from back home.”
Dunlap joins a growing number of local vendors who make regular visits to the 4Corners Marketplace in the heart of the University District. Organized by the Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas, the market uses its Facebook page to keep track of a shifting and rotating schedule of food vendors. The market is open during lunch hours. Their anticipated hours of operation on any given day of the week is updated daily on their Facebook page.
“I think the 4Corners concept is great,” Dunlap said. “It is giving revitalization to the community and also giving entrepreneurs like myself an opportunity to give locals the taste of something different while being able to come out and enjoy the weather. And we just got approval for picnic tables at 4Corners.”
Dunlap, a proud member of the UALR Alumni Association, is showing off his marketing prowess by offering a $1 discount on a Philly’s cheesesteak sandwich, drink, and chips combo for any student or faculty member from UALR who mentions this story or shows an Alumni Association card.