Saturday, April 27, 2024


Today's post highlights Lafayette County, MS, retail.

Longtime followers of mine know that I'm from Hernando, MS, and my alma mater is Ole Miss. (Just graduated in May!*) 

(* -- Okay, so I wrote the introduction to this post on a piece of paper circa late 2019/early 2020. The intention was obviously to write and publish the post soon after graduation... well, "May" in that sentence refers to May of 2020, a mere four years ago. Oops. Anyway, continuing on.)

This connection between city and college isn't unique, of course; there are many other people who meet both of these criteria, one of whom is University of Mississippi law professor David W. Case. Well, Case may not be from Hernando, but he did live there for a number of years, commuting the one-hour distance back and forth between the Oxford campus and the DeSoto County seat every day. Finally, in his eleventh year of teaching at Ole Miss, Case uprooted from his Hernando home and settled in Oxford. Immediately, he noticed two things about Oxford that set it apart from Hernando, which he shared on Twitter via the prompt "without naming your city, what is your city known for":

The City of Oxford, Case claimed, was known for (1) "having the very worst Kroger on Planet Earth," and (2) "not having a Waffle House." A profile on Professor Case from Parents of College Students explains that "Case shares his sense of humor with the Oxford community on Twitter. According to Case, the purpose of Twitter is to express humor and find humor in more serious topics. If Twitter isn't making him laugh, he's not enjoying it."

In 2016, the Kroger in Hernando tripled in size and reopened as the first (and only) Kroger Marketplace in the state of Mississippi, something that likely spoiled Case in comparison to the smaller Oxford store. In addition to Kroger, Case "spent a lot of time at Hernando's local Waffle House because there wasn't much else to do and he genuinely enjoys the food. Naturally, it became one of his Twitter bits."

Hernando Waffle House, May 2019

"If Oxford didn't want me to tweet about it not having a Waffle House all the time it should have gotten a Waffle House before I moved here," Case wrote in March 2019. Similarly, after Whataburger took the lead in an Ole Miss Twitter poll asking users to choose between it and Waffle House as the most desired restaurant not currently in Oxford, Case proclaimed that the university would be relocating to Hernando, "which already has a Waffle House and as a bonus a Super Kroger," to be henceforth known as "the University of Hernando also affectionately known as Ole Hern," concluding "I did warn you guys." As you can tell -- his tweets were definitely very funny.

Not long after Case moved to Oxford, Kroger actually did announce it would be expanding the Oxford store into a Marketplace of its own; ultimately the Marketplace designation didn't come to fruition, but the store did undergo a significant expansion, reopening in late 2020. I have pictures of that entire project over on my flickr account. As for bringing a Waffle House to Oxford, on the other hand... Case's Twitter antics played a much larger role in that story. It all began on April 4, 2019, when Oxford's mayor, Robyn Tannehill, followed Case on Twitter. Case's immediate response: "omg you guys I am SO about to get us a Waffle House in Oxford."

According to a later interview with Tannehill, "it was a slow Friday afternoon, so Tannehill thought, 'Why does Oxford not have a Waffle House? Which is a fabulous question.'" So, sure enough, she proceeded to do two things: first, she responded to Case with "Challenge Accepted" and the hashtag #WaffleHouseinOxfordMS. Second, she submitted a contact request form to Waffle House corporate. In the interview, she summarized her message as follows: "Hey, I’m the mayor of Oxford. We’ll have a parade when you get here. We can’t be the only SEC town without a Waffle House. I’m out front, let me know when you’ll be here."

Mayor Tannehill's submission to Waffle House corporate

What started as a lighthearted Twitter joke was actually gaining some serious, if tongue-in-cheek, traction. Professor Case was beside himself, excitedly tweeting, "IT'S HAPPENING" in all-caps. Within hours, #WaffleHouseinOxfordMS was trending worldwide.


Waffle House took notice of the hashtag and the excitement brewing in Oxford. Just 10 days later, a care package arrived on Tannehill's doorstep at City Hall, "complete with a waffle maker, waffle mix, syrup, two different T-shirts, hats, coffee mugs, and a 'Waffle-Opoly' board game." In addition, according to the Oxford Eagle, "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." Tannehill "honestly thought someone was playing a joke on her." The article continues:

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."

Close-up of the thank you card sent with the care package

Mayor Tannehill wasn't the only one to receive a Waffle House care package; Professor Case did, too. As shown below, his swag included a few different pieces, including a tie, insulated cup, keychain, and novelty pins. Oh -- and a nametag. A feature story on WLBT notes that they both received an official Waffle House nametag: "one that says 'David/Batman,' and one that says 'Robyn.' Case argues that Tannehill should be Batman since she has the power connections, but she insists that it was Case’s Twitter stroke that made this thing gain traction.

"Plus, she said, she’s already Robyn."


Slowly but surely, continued progress on the Oxford Waffle House saga was brought to Twitter. In May 2019, Tannehill met with Waffle House's Vice President of Real Estate, donning her hat for the occasion. In June, she wore her nametag for a meeting with another corporate real estate executive. Case continued to tweet about bringing a Waffle House to town during this time as well, but unfortunately, he has since deleted his account, and all his old tweets are now lost to time; the ones in this post are only available because they were saved as screenshots while the saga was still unfolding. I'm pretty certain I saved a bunch of others myself, but I, too, appear to have lost them along the way.

In August 2019, "waffle history was made" when Waffle House upped the ante by bringing a food truck to the Oxford Square as part of its National Waffle Week celebrations. In another Oxford Eagle article, it is noted that "Bobby Garner, former Ole Miss quarterback and current senior vice president of Waffle House, was one of several staffers on hand, passing out free waffles on the Square. Garner played for the Rebels from 1976-78.

"'It's been a long time coming,' Garner said. 'This here just kind of solidifies our decision to go ahead and move into this market here. The mayor's commitment is just wonderful.'" Before all of this, Oxford only had a Huddle House, and the closest Waffle House was half an hour away, in Batesville.

A few months later, in December 2019, Waffle House showed up on the Ole Miss campus, with a career opportunity setup in Conner Hall, the accountancy building. Some swag was available -- which, of course, I picked up. (I would have liked to have grabbed one of each type of koozie, but didn't feel comfortable doing that. I did end up snagging a second novelty pin that I found left on a table, though.) The Facebook post on the event notes that Waffle House was also planning on "feeding our students during finals week this spring at Holman Hall," next door at the business school, but alas, the subsequent COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns squashed those plans.

My Waffle House swag pack


Events which were made less public but which were still very real took place in the two months between September's Waffle Week on the square and December's campus visit. In October 2019, the Oxford Planning Commission officially approved a preliminary site plan for a Waffle House in Oxford, and in November, the Board of Alderman seconded. The building was to be located on Commonwealth Boulevard, north of the Malco, in the Oxford Commons area of town.

Further discussion continued into January of the new year, but as you and I know, pretty much everything ground to a halt in March 2020 when the pandemic hit. News on Waffle House's arrival in Oxford wouldn't pick up again until a year later, in March 2021, when it was announced the company had decided on a new location, still in Oxford Commons, but now in a more visible spot directly abutting the roundabout at Ed Perry Boulevard and Sisk Avenue. The final site plan and architectural renderings were presented and approved in June 2021, and construction finally began in July 2022, after some further delays.

Site plan

Architectural rendering


By late September 2022, the building was coming along fast, and finally, the day arrived: Oxford's very first Waffle House held its grand opening in late November 2022. Mayor Robyn Tannehill was on hand for the festivities, alongside Waffle House executives including former Ole Miss Rebel Bobby Garner, mentioned earlier. Also in celebration of the event, TeeWhites -- a locally-owned custom apparel business (in nearby Flora, MS!) -- put out a limited-edition run of "Finally in Oxford" sweatshirts. According to their website, TeeWhites' founder, Tyler White, is actually a student at the Ole Miss School of Law... I wonder if he knows Professor Case.

Construction progress

Grand opening day

Limited edition sweatshirts

Definitely would've bought one of these if I'd known about it!

Speaking of Case... as I said, it seems he is no longer on Twitter, but he is still very much an active professor at the university. I feel it's only fitting to assume he has been to the Waffle House many times since it opened; he did state multiple times that his dream scenario would be to have "a stool at the counter that’s kind of like my stool, like Norm on ‘Cheers.’ And maybe when I come in everyone would yell my name." I'd like to think that hopefully, on at least one of those times he's visited, he kept his promise from the tweet below and shared a waffle with Mayor Tannehill. They are, after all, the dynamic duo that brought about the #WaffleHouseinOxfordMS: Batman and Robyn.


Obviously, though the introduction I wrote years ago was clearly very optimistic that a Waffle House would arrive in town seemingly overnight, I had long since graduated and moved away by the time the restaurant was finally built. As a matter of fact, I hadn't been back to Oxford at all since graduating with my masters degree in May 2021. Last month, though, I was in nearby Water Valley for a friend's wedding... and since Oxford was so close, I couldn't resist the temptation to drive that way and finally see the Waffle House in person.

Having just eaten at the wedding, all I did was park and briefly walk around the restaurant for a few pictures, but I'm glad I took the chance to see it. I'm sure I may have looked a little strange, a guy in a full suit walking around taking pictures of the outside of a Waffle House on a Saturday night, but after all that build-up, the restaurant had to be seen to be believed!

If walking around a Waffle House parking lot in my suit and tie was strange, then subsequently driving over to campus and doing the same was probably even weirder. Luckily, there wasn't really anybody out and about at 8:00 on a Saturday night. (Well, I'm sure a lot was going on in Oxford, just not on campus!) As I said, I hadn't been back since graduation, so it was very neat and nostalgic getting to recreate all the usual routes I'd take to class and see my old apartment and the Grove. I enjoyed it a lot. (Even if I wasn't able to walk it all quite as fast as I used to.)

I really like the backlit sign along the road for the Waffle House. The building itself is composed of all brick, similar to the Waffle House in Hernando (seen earlier in the post). Hernando has a brick ordinance, whereas Oxford does not, but it's possible Waffle House is building all of its new restaurants these days out of brick; I'm not sure. A tweet I saw in doing my research for this post called this "the most Madison looking Waffle House," in reference to the architecture of Madison, MS, which is pretty funny.

As I said, I didn't go inside the restaurant, but if you zoom in, you'll see that the tiles along the wall -- which are usually black against a yellow background -- are alternating red and blue instead, the Ole Miss colors, on a black background. I thought that was a nice touch. I believe the pictures on the wall above the tiles are also related to the University and/or Oxford.

Even the mailbox is 100% Waffle House! We'll close with a nice overview shot of the entire building, as viewed from the roundabout out front, from an image posted to Google Maps. It's still not a daytime shot, but at least it's not pitch black outside like in my images.

Courtesy Google Maps

Y'all seemed really excited about my "Batman"-related post when I teased it last month, so I hope you guys enjoyed it! I thought it was really cool getting to follow along with this story in real-time while I was still in college, and I'm glad to have my own little tiny personal connection to it with the swag pack I picked up at Conner Hall that afternoon (the items from which I still have proudly displayed with my retail collection to this day). I only wish I had saved more of Professor Case's tweets along the way as well, as there were definitely plenty more besides the relatively few still surviving online (including, if I'm not mistaken, the Batman "origin story," if you will).

For those wondering, my friend's wedding was great as well; I'm really happy for her and her husband. I enjoyed getting to go to that, and I also enjoyed the freeing feeling of walking around campus on a Saturday night, in a suit and tie, three years since my last visit! Incidentally, the topics of weddings and freedom will play a very major role in my post for next month, too, so I hope you'll stick around for that. In the meantime, until then and as always, thanks for reading, and have fun exploring the retail world wherever you are!

Retail Retell