The promise of free burritos brought a group of strangers together Wednesday afternoon beneath the “Moe’s Southwest Grill” sign on Tyler Avenue.
Kyle Wallace, of Blacksburg, arrived at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday with five other friends to wait outside of the new Moe’s restaurant for it’s official opening at 11 a.m. Thursday. He was the first person in line for the restaurant’s opening promotion: the first 50 customers would receive a free burrito every week for a year.
A few hours later, Michael Klager, Nathaniel Ogden and Josh Fowler arrived with their couch, and quickly became friends with Wallace and his friends. Klager and Ogden are third-year business management students at Radford University and Fowler is a fourth-year studying finance and marketing.
“We all just met yesterday, but now we’re best friends,” Klager said Thursday morning.
Indeed, by Thursday morning, the united friend groups were sporting friendship bracelets on their wrists. Stephanie Brown, a fourth-year public relations and business administration student at RU who was fourth in line at Moe’s, said she’d found the bracelets in her backpack at some point during the night.
Along with the couch, which Brown pointed out resembles the couch from the TV show “Friends,” the bracelets seemed fitting for the situation.
Though Brown said she was in line because she likes Moe’s, others didn’t necessarily wait for the food.
“I’m just here for the experience,” Fowler said.
The group said dancing, card games and a “massive” snowball fight kept them going during the hours-long wait for Moe’s to open its doors.
The group thought the restaurant would be especially successful given its proximity to RU, especially because it offers a welcome alternative to dining hall meals.
“They’re going to do so well business-wise,” Brown said.
Angela Baker, who owns the business with her husband Mickey Baker, said they’re happy students are already taking to the place.
“We’re excited that they’re so thrilled, we designed this store with the kids in mind,” Angela said.
Angela said the restaurant has extra outlets for students needing to recharge a laptop or cellphone, and that she and her husband decided not to install a speaker in the back of the restaurant in case some students preferred a quieter dining experience.
Unlike the Bakers’ other Moe’s in Bristol, Tennessee where they live, Angela said the Radford Moe’s will be serving beer. She said the restaurant staff is very serious about checking IDs to ensure only customers who are 21 or older are served alcohol.
Angela said the first 50 customers were already in line by 10 p.m. Wednesday when Mickey arrived at the restaurant to make some last-minute preparations.
“We’re very thrilled with the turnout because school isn’t even in session,” Angela said, adding that they purposefully opened the week before RU begins its second semester to give their employees a week to become acclimated to the job.
The staff got a taste of what business would look like on Wednesday with an invitation-only soft opening that doubled as a fundraiser for the Bobcat Backpack Program. The program is a community effort to meet the weekend food needs of Radford City School children.
Mickey said donations collected during the soft opening were still being added up, but that he believes the total is approximately $1,000.
As for Wallace and the new friend group, Brown said they are planning to “meet up most Mondays” at Moe’s and eat their free burritos together.