It started simply as a menu of cooked food that was available outside your own kitchen, back when the statewide shutdown for the pandemic was in effect.
Instead of leaving hungry customers to scour the internet for websites, bouncing from one page to another in a time-consuming chore to find out who might offer takeout or deliver a meal, people only had to scroll down an up-to-date list of posts on social media at Walla Walla Curbside and they’d find the latest at the top.
“They helped save us,” said Trisha Conrad, a waitress at Mr. Ed’s on East Isaacs Avenue, who also does the restaurant’s posting on Facebook. “Reaching out to the public helped a lot of restaurants around here.”
Nathan Carlson, who runs a food truck called Where There’s Food Eat It, also saw big help from Walla Walla Curbside.
“Especially during that serious lockdown, it was good to keep communicating with such a large community,” he said.
“They have a big audience, and it was a captive audience, so it was good to let people know where we’d be and when. And let them know about menu changes because we do that quite often.”
Now that restaurants have slowly started returning to normal operations, seating as much as half their building capacity — and might soon get the OK from the state to fully reopen — Walla Walla Curbside’s administrators say the page isn’t going anywhere, not with its 7,000 very active followers.
Cole Massey, who created the Facebook group labeled an “awareness page and directory,” has announced that rather than retiring the page as pandemic restrictions ease, administrators are instead renaming it Walla Walla Eats & Drinks. The idea is to keep it a lively social media hub, one that — with some new features — could stay relevant should curbside pickup become less a crutch for restaurant survival.
The new chapter starts with a different name.
“As the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) requirements started to change, and our community policies and health department rules started to change, then I really started digging into the name,” said Massey, who runs a social media consulting business called eCLAT Creative Group.
“I put a poll on the page with some name ideas, and other people put their ideas up. I’m going to change the name, but the group chose it. Not me. I felt the community had to have a say in it. It’s their page.”
The public has run the page, Massey might say, pretty much since its beginning back in March 2020. He launched the group — officially called Walla Walla Curbside Pickup/Takeout and Delivery — after discussing the statewide shutdown with a handful of local restaurant owners and chefs, searching for ways to continue doing business despite closed doors. He woke up the next morning, less than 12 hours later, to see 3,000 followers.
They quickly commandeered the page, filling it with their own pictures and generating a new kind of excitement.
“The page took a totally different spin, which I didn’t expect,” he said. “People started buying family meals from restaurants and posting them, like a picture of their family meal at their own kitchen table, like ‘Look at us. We went out to dinner tonight.’ They didn’t. They picked it up curbside and brought it home. Then all these people, like thousands, started doing that.”
Massey looks to keep that excitement going with Walla Walla Eats & Drinks, even if restaurants are to fully reopen soon.
The page will soon begin giving away a weekly award to the Best Photo, based on the number of “likes” received, as well as yearly “best of” awards. Massey also looks to post video interviews with local chefs and kitchen staff, as well as live tasting around the area, and add an events page that would include a food truck directory.
“How do we keep this going? Do I shut it down? We’re just shy of 7,000 followers right now, and they’re active. Every hour, everyone’s posting something,” Massey said. “It’s a community page. They made it happen. Walla Walla came forward and really got this thing going.”