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Family fun with famous food from Philadelphia

This week’s Midweek Mugging features the Russell family at Philthy Philly’s Cheese Steak and Poutinerie on Macdonell

Dedication to family and a quest for positive change convinced the owners of a new restaurant downtown to bring authentic Philadelphia cheese steak sandwiches to Guelph.

“We wanted something new,” said Mark Russell, co-owner of Philthy Philly’s Cheese Steak and Poutinerie. “Like I said this is for the family. The intent is to have fun. We are all together and that’s what we want.”

Russell and his daughter Alysse Osbourne are in charge of the day-to-day operations with other family members chipping in when needed.

“I’m a retired truck driver,” said Russell. “My wife Lina works for Dufferin-Peel School Board so, she is here whenever she can be. Our son Adam is a chiropractor and owns his own business and when he has time he comes and helps us. Alysse’s husband (Jordan Osbourne) is a student and he will be here for the summer helping.”

Allysse is doing double duty splitting her time between school and the restaurant.

“I went to the University of Guelph-Humber for kinesiology and I am currently in school at Fanshawe College for paramedics,” she said. “I have always worked in hospitality and always worked in restaurants and managing.”

There is another close family member whose experience and determination played a decisive role in their plans to open a Philthy Philly’s franchise.

“My sister Jeanette worked for the franchisers since they started,” said Russell. “We’re a close family and we always talked about how well the franchises were doing. We got to know the owners, Danny and Patty Kotsopoulos, and became really good friends.”

Russel’s sister Jeanette helped them scout for a location.

“So we said, okay, let’s look into doing this in Guelph,” said Russell. “We are the ninth franchise and there are now 10 stores. We are the only Philthy Philly’s west of Mississauga and the only one in a university town.”

They took control of the location at 85 Macdonell Street in December 2016 but faced delays related to municipal bylaws and Jeanette being diagnosed with cancer.

“We thought we were going to open right away but because of occupancy regulations with the city, there was lots to do and lots to change,” said Russell. “Jeanette was supposed to be here with us and she passed away in September (2017) so we started back with construction and said, let’s get our lives back on track. Alysse jumped on board to help us run this whole thing and Adam and his wife Anna and Alysse’s husband, we all said let’s do it together.”

They staged a soft opening last month on April 27 and are planning a grand opening for some time in June. Russell said the response has been great.

“Check the Google and Facebook reviews,” said Russell. “One of the guys from Legit Reviews is actually from Philadelphia and he was back in today for his third or fourth time.”

A menu option helps celebrate the life and contribution Russell’s sister, Jeanette, had on their lives and the Philthy Philly’s franchise.

“Her sauce, 'Jeanette’s Kicked Up Horsey’ is on all the franchise menus,” said Russell.

“The franchisers loved my sister like a sister and have been here for us like she was going to be. They weren’t going to let us fail. We’ll be fine.”

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Troy Bridgeman

About the Author: Troy Bridgeman

Troy Bridgeman is a multi-media journalist that has lived and worked in the Guelph community his whole life. He has covered news and events in the city for more than two decades.
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