PULLMAN — Nick Rolovich’s acts of kindness started with taking his family out to eat each night to support Pullman restaurants that were struggling as the coronavirus outbreak took hold.
“I talked to a couple of business owners and asked if it would be good to say, ‘Hey, go out to eat at this place tonight,’ ” said Rolovich, who was hired as Washington State’s football coach in January. With 37,000 Twitter followers in Cougar Country and beyond, he can broadcast a message quickly and widely.
That led Rolovich to an effort that has helped not only Pullman restaurants, but others in need. For three days, Rolovich visited a different Pullman eatery, buying 20 dinners that went to the first 20 people who showed up after he posted the news on Twitter. On Tuesday night, he bought pizzas for hospital workers.
Talking to reporters Tuesday about his one-man restaurant campaign, Rolovich said it started Saturday with Pizza Perfection, which offers two carryout pizzas for the price of one.
“When I got there, I heard about the pizza deal and said, ‘Let’s see if some other people who are struggling, they’d get a little relief with the free pizza,’ then it kind of carried on the next couple days,” said Rolovich, who has asked people who get the free food to follow social-distance guidelines and to tip as they are able. “I think people appreciate (the meal purchases). … What we’re trying to do is help local businesses and people in need.”
Pizza Perfection manager Jaime Boumont just missed Rolovich’s visit, but she heard about it in texts from employees.
“It was good for business, and our lobby was full of people rather quickly,” said Boumont, who said the 20 pizzas were taken in less than half an hour. “It’s nice (what Rolovich is doing) for everyone, and gives everyone something to look forward to.”
He also went to Nuevo Vallarta and Tan’ Chinese Restaurant.
Rolovich said Tuesday he wanted to continue helping the community, but maybe not in the same way.
“I don’t want it to become a wild-goose chase to where I am buying free food, because that was not the intended consequence and not really the spirit of the exercise.”
Also, he said he realized that attracting sudden crowds to restaurants could run afoul of social-distancing guidelines. On Tuesday evening, he took Sella’s pizzas to Pullman Regional Hospital.
“I like the suggestion of being able to help some of our first responders with food,” said Rolovich, who said he will continue to support local restaurants but might not post it on social media.
Two WSU assistants, offensive-line coach Rafael Aguilar and offensive quality-control coach Kolney Cassel, ran with their boss’ idea when they bought 20 drinks for customers Tuesday at C&S Coffeehouse in Yakima.
Rolovich isn’t the only one in Pullman feeling generous. Oak on Main Restaurant provided free takeout spaghetti dinners Tuesday night.
“That’s how this works — call it random acts of kindness or doing the right thing — it multiplies very quickly,” Rolovich said.
“I think there is some positive and some uplifting spirit that’s going on with some of the people when we walk in to purchase food from them,” Rolovich said. “We hear stories, ‘We would’ve had to lay these guys off in a couple days.’ It’s like, ‘It’s not that hard: Let’s go help, boys and girls’. ”