The Case for a Waffle House
Published 8:00 am Saturday, May 18, 2019
When Ole Miss law professor David Case moved to Oxford last August, he used his Twitter presence to speak out for what he believed in: Oxford needs a Waffle House.
Case has been part of the University of Mississippi School of Law faculty for 12 years, but lived in Hernando until last year and visited the Waffle House there frequently. The lack of a Waffle House in Oxford is something he said has puzzled him since 1983, when he came to Ole Miss as an undergrad.
“It’s always been surprising to me that a Southern town with a major university in the Southeastern Conference doesn’t have a Waffle House,” Case said. “It seems to me that you would be printing money (for it).”
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Now, spurred by a social media exchange between Case and Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill a couple months back, Oxford is closer than ever to getting its own square of waffle real estate. According to Tannehill, she never imagined things would go this far.
IT'S HAPPENING pic.twitter.com/pb3sv7iwAH
— David W. Case (@dwcase) April 5, 2019
“I got a notification, and saw where (Case) had taken a screenshot that said, Robyn Tannehill follows you, and he goes, ‘Y’all, we are so about to get a Waffle House in Oxford,’” Tannehill said. “Over the years, numerous people have started Waffle House campaigns,but it was just all in fun and games. So I decided I would take that challenge, and tweeted back, and within 48 hours it was trending worldwide.”
Case is quick to give Tannehill credit for making real-world strides for a Waffle House in Oxford, and said he was surprised his jokes on Twitter actually ended up getting the restaurant chain’s attention.
The lack of a Waffle House in Oxford is a quandary that’s not lost on the chain’s corporate headquarters in Atlanta, either.
Waffle House Vice President of Real Estate Jeff Cole, who visited Oxford last week, said the addition of a Waffle House in the LOU Community has been years in the making. The company has looked at several properties in the past, but after seeing the renewed support from Tannehill, Cole said, they’ve decided to get the wheels rolling again.
“The reason we’ve taken some action is that Oxford fits very well in Waffle Country,” Cole said. “The Twitter exchange made us give it another shot. It could be as quick as 12 to 18 months, or it could take a few years. It depends on whether or not we can secure a location that fits our criteria.”
Almost immediately after Waffle House retweeted Tannehill and Case’s exchange, the chain contacted the mayor to set up a call with its CEO, Walt Ehmer. They also sent a package to her at City Hall, complete with a waffle maker, waffle mix, syrup, two different t-shirts, hats, coffee mugs and a ‘Waffle-opoly’ board game.
The whole situation is one Tannehill admitted was rare, and bizarre and entirely unlikely – but for her, it shows the power of positive social discourse.
“What I think it demonstrates more than anything is that people are tired of venomous, hateful dialogue,” she said. “Nobody ‘decided to start a Waffle House campaign.’ It was just fun and games, but now it’s turning into something real.”
Whether Oxonians will have all the scattered, smothered and covered hash browns and All-Star Specials their hearts desire is not a matter of “if” any more – it’s when. And when Case walks through the door, he said, he doesn’t want a plaque or a photo on the wall or an honorary booth.
All he wants is a place where everybody knows his name.
“I want a stool at the counter, so that when I walk in the door I’m like Norm walking into Cheers, and everyone can yell, ‘Dave!’ as I walk to the counter,” he said. “That’s what I want.”