Local Rockstar Reena Riley Uses Stimulus Money to Eat Local Every Day
As Covid-19 reached Tucson, local chefs were forced to close their kitchens. Servers and suppliers followed. Small food businesses began tanking. Fighting back with heart, they teamed up to create a video message. During which, award-winning chefs earnestly asked Tucsonans to order take out once a week, and help these food businesses survive. Tucson foodies are already echoing the motto: "It doesn't matter where you spend it, as long as you spend it locally.” [-Chef Travis Peters.]
Eating local was a choice Reena Riley sought out while traveling. But only then. So when this pandemic struck, Reena became one of the 18,000 viewers of the call-to-action, call-to-eat movement. Her food journey was set into motion. Reena planned to eat out at as many *LOCAL* Tucson restaurants as she could – a type of experiment. For the next forty days she ate at FIFTY-TWO local Tucson restaurants!
Reena kindly agreed to be interviewed:
Are you a local Tucsonan or a transplant?
“I was raised in Tucson but couldn’t wait to escape once I graduated high school. I’ve lived all over Texas, Wisconsin, and Arizona. It took my folks getting older to draw be back about nine years ago.”
In what industry do you work?
“I work in marketing and membership at a big wholesaler.”
Before ‘Rona, did you seek out local food?
“I hate to cook, so I eat out a few times a week. But it was just picking up a burger or a salad. I really didn’t seek out local food spots because I knew what was in my comfort zone. Once this ‘Rona started happening, my friend (and bartender Barb Trujillo) reposted a video by local chefs asking people to support local. It’s like the proverbial light bulb went off in my head. I asked my sister if she had seen it, and she had. I said we have to start doing this, do our part.”
How did you start?
“After five days in a row, I thought… why not six? Then seven. Then eight. And pretty soon our food revolution was off and running! My sister has joined me for a good majority and we trade off places. Once I started posting on Facebook, my friends would start making suggestions. Heard from someone in Oracle, heck yeah! I’ll make the drive.”
Who impressed you with hospitality?
“Divine Bovine, Thai China Bistro, Peking Palace, Bisbee Breakfast (Club), Bocas Tacos, Rocco’s, are just the first that come to mind when it comes to great service and hospitality.”
What has been your favorite part of this experiment?
“Everyone has been kind and gracious and makes one feel like we are truly in this together.”
Moving forward, is eating local going to be a lifestyle choice for you?
“I’ve never eaten out so much, but every cent and every smile has been worth it! I have enjoyed my foodie journey and met some great people. To be continued!”
Reena IS continuing this journey and posting all about it on “Take Out Tucson”; a large small business effort (8,000 strong) via a Facebook Group. Expect her drool-worthy photos and recommendations filled with genuine love for hospitality-workers.
I am a die-hard Localist, and she inspires me! Foodies need to think like investors; each dollar will create the small-business-landscape that remains after the dust settles.