Regardless of the preparation and excitement beforehand, not all grand openings go according to plan. Billy By could certainly attest to that, as his dad’s new donut shop failed to attract many customers in March 2019. However, everything changed when the business owner’s son took to social media later that day.
Back in February 1981 Satharith By left his home country of Cambodia to live in the United States. The refugee subsequently became a machinist, and some of the experience he gained in that post proved very useful in his later years. In 1983, though, Satharith’s life changed forever when he wed a woman named Nakry.
A fellow Cambodian refugee, Nakry made the move to the U.S. in March 1981, just weeks after Satharith’s arrival. From there, she became an employee at a Wendy’s restaurant. Thanks to her mom, she also went on to meet her future husband during that period.
Following the ceremony in 1983, Satharith and Nakry then started to put plans in place for the future. In fact, the couple were looking to establish their own donut business, so they began to save their earnings. The pair finally reached their target some ten years later, when they bought a shop in Houston, Texas.
And not long before that, Satharith and Nakry had also become the proud parents of a baby boy named Billy. Off the back of that life-changing moment, the couple subsequently decided to call the donut shop Billy’s in their son’s honor. With everything in place, the business opened its doors in 1993.
Satharith and Nakry’s donut store subsequently remained open for close to 25 years, with the couple running the business together. That success was disrupted in 2016, however, and the shop’s future was put in real jeopardy. Unfortunately, Billy’s mom faced some health issues at that time, starting with a battle against kidney issues.
Nakry then suffered with a cyst, which led her to make a very difficult decision. Indeed, due to the discomfort she was in, the mom couldn’t return to work during that period, leaving Satharith on his own. He was unable to operate the donut store by himself, though.
As a result of that, Satharith and Nakry sold the store, closing the doors on their business after more than two decades. “And then I had to stay home,” the latter told the Houston Chronicle in March 2019. “I had nothing to do.” On that note, the couple looked to start all over again.
Much like before, Satharith and Nakry began putting aside money for a new shop, which eventually opened its doors in March 2019. Set within a row of other businesses, the Billy’s Donuts store could be found in Missouri City, Texas. The grand opening didn’t go according to plan for the family, however.
While Satharith and Nakry’s store was filled with a variety of tasty-looking treats, ranging from donuts to kolaches, business was incredibly quiet at first. And, unsurprisingly, the couple couldn’t hide their disappointment, with Billy’s dad taking it particularly hard. Satharith later provided some insights into his mindset during that opening day.
“I was really so sad,” Satharith told the Houston Chronicle. “It was too slow. And I told my wife maybe we’d have to sell the shop and go out to work. And then Billy was so sad, so he said, ‘I can help you Dad. I’ll make this better.’”
In fact, Billy decided to utilize the business’ Twitter page in an attempt to drum up some interest in the local community. With that in mind, he snapped some images of the shop, its eye-catching interior and the food on sale. In addition to that, the Texas resident also took a photo of his father stood behind the counter.
Noting Satharith’s unhappy demeanor, Billy weaved that into the resulting tweet. “My dad is sad cause no one is coming to his new donut shop,” he wrote on March 9, 2019. Alongside that message, the owner’s son included a crying emoji as well, accentuating the feeling of disappointment.
However, no one could’ve predicted what happened next. Billy’s tweet quickly went viral on social media, in fact, with Twitter users flocking to offer their support. The post earned more than 340,000 retweets and close to 770,000 likes while also generating in excess of than 10,000 comments. The attention didn’t end there, though.
As the response to Billy’s tweet continued to grow, a couple of a famous faces also then entered the fray. The first of those was YouTuber Casey Neistat, who responded, “OMW” (on my way) via his official Twitter account. That reply itself subsequently earned just under 2,000 retweets and more than 30,000 likes.
In addition to that, Neistat’s tweet generated over 100 comments as well, most of which were incredibly supportive. One of those responses came from Billy himself, who was still using the business’ social media page. “Come through!” read the reply in the comments section. “Get some donuts on the house.”
While Neistat was able to help spread the word about Billy’s Donuts with his army of Twitter followers, a Hollywood legend also soon followed suit on social media. Indeed, veteran actor James Woods showed an interest in this story as well, posting a tweet that urged people to visit Satharith’s store in Missouri City.
“Come on, everybody,” Woods wrote. “Let’s do this. Address, please?” That short message earned close to 4,000 retweets and more than 9,000 likes on Twitter, as well as generating over 500 comments from online users. Much like the response to Neistat’s tweet, those replies were overwhelmingly positive.
“I don’t usually reply to celebs, cause well,” Twitter user Chris Michaels wrote to Woods. “Who would think they have the time to read everything they receive. But this was pretty awesome. I appreciate the way you use your fan base, notoriety and social media. You put it to work for people in need. Thank you.”
Meanwhile, another Twitter user going by the name CL_Addict touched upon the importance of local businesses and the services they provide. “Anyone who loves donuts should always seek out the local mom and pop donut shop,” they wrote in the comments section. “Better quality and it does more to support the local economy.”
As the supportive messages continued to flood in, Woods’ tweet also caught the eye of a social media user living in Missouri City. “[Billy’s Donuts is] down the street from me,” Richard Dyman responded. “Saw it was open this morning. I’ll be sure to stop by tomorrow on my way to work.”
However, while the online response to Billy’s tweet was massive, it remained to be seen if the business itself would benefit from that buzz. Thankfully for Satharith and Nakry, though, they didn’t have to wait long to find out because a large number of people traveled to the shop the following day. As a result, Billy’s Donuts was jam-packed with customers.
And much like Billy had done the previous day, one of the customers decided to snap some pictures inside the store. In stark contrast to the empty shop seen in the initial photos, the patron was able to capture just how busy the premises now were, with a long line at the counter. The man in question subsequently shared the images on Twitter.
The resulting tweet earned more than 3,500 retweets and close to 40,000 likes, with users continuing to show their support for the local business. Elsewhere, another customer shared their experience on the social media website as well, commenting on the quality of the food they’d purchased. That wasn’t all, though.
“Dude it was really busy when I went too!” the patron wrote on Twitter. “[Billy’s] mom was talking about how she usually knows how much to make in a day, but today she didn’t expect the turnout. And the boudin kolaches are SO good.” In addition to all the customers, a news crew from Houston’s KPRC-TV then arrived to cover the story.
Following all this coverage online and on television, Billy took to Twitter again at the end of that busy day to offer some news. Unlike his previous tweet, though, this one had a very positive message about the business. “Just wanted to update y’all!” he wrote on the social media site.
“We completely sold out of donuts and kolaches!” Billy continued. “You are all amazing. I can’t thank everyone enough for coming out and supporting local businesses. This means so much to my family.” That post subsequently earned close to 50,000 retweets and just under 300,000 likes on Twitter.
Moreover, the incredible response to this story only continued as the days rolled on, with some Twitter representatives even arriving at Billy’s Donuts. That particular group traveled in from Austin, Texas, and had a big surprise for the customers at the store. As a result of everything that happened, the social media giant picked up the bill for all the sales from the remainder of that day.
“With just one tweet, Billy sparked an outpouring of love and support around the world,” read a message from Twitter to the Houston Chronicle. “We’re here to show him ours.” As well as paying for all the donuts, the company also provided Billy’s family with some special shirts, matching the color of the shop’s interior.
While Billy’s story captured the hearts of a lot of people, it wasn’t the first time that someone from Texas used Twitter to their advantage. Indeed, back in December 2017 Houston’s Jacqueline Garza made a passionate plea regarding her dad’s restaurant. With business failing, she tried to drum up as much interest as she could.
“Hey y’all, my dad has a little panaderia/restaurant,” Garza wrote on Twitter at that time. “He makes all of the pan dulce himself. [He’s] been thinking about closing, but I can’t let that happen. Spread the word, one retweet could bring in a potential customer! La Casa Bakery And Cafe.”
Garza’s tweet really struck a chord on social media, earning in excess of 60,000 retweets and close to 60,000 likes. In addition to that, the post also generated over 700 comments from online users, with people offering their support. And much like with Billy and his family, the response helped to turn things around.
Sales subsequently improved at the La Casa Bakery And Cafe, keeping Garza’s father in business. Meanwhile, Billy’s Donuts continued to earn rave reviews from customers off the back of that whirlwind grand opening in March 2019. A number of those patrons have since also taken to Yelp to spread the word about the shop and its tasty treats.
“Love this place!” wrote Yelp user Jazmin on the reviews website. “Not only is the food so amazing and yummy, but the owners/staff are the sweetest! I definitely recommend to anybody who lives near or even just passing by.” She gave Billy’s Donuts a rating of five stars – and it certainly wouldn’t be the last such glowing review.
Indeed, fellow Yelp user Trisha also dished out a five-star review for Satharith and Nakry’s store. “[I] was in town visiting family when I tried this place,” she wrote. “Even though I’ve only been here once, it was such a pleasant and heart-warming experience [that] I have to give it a review.”
“The couple working here is so incredibly sweet,” Trisha added. “I got the silly donut, and it was so good it brightened up my morning.” Elsewhere, another Yelp user showered Billy’s Donuts with even more praise, offering some warm words about Satharith along the way.
“Absolutely great customer service!” wrote user Jordan. “I love the owner, who is a kind man and always treats my family very well. They have a variety of choices and the pricing is great, especially since my family is on a tight budget. I go here when I’m in town for family and miss it when I’m traveling.”
Moreover, the Houston Chronicle caught up with another customer who had traveled in from Sugar Land, Texas. Joe Baltazar arrived at Billy’s Donuts off the back of all the news coverage that had followed the tweet, and he ordered a number of items while he was there. At that point, he explained why he wanted to help the business.
“I want to support good people like this in our community,” Baltazar told the newspaper in March 2019. “This is family. This is local. This is community, and this is a happy place. So supporting them? It’s the least I can do.” With regards to that latter point, he certainly isn’t the only one.
Since Billy’s famous tweet, his parents’ store’s social media pages have attracted a huge number of fans who’ve shown their support to the family. Indeed, the Billy’s Donut Twitter page boasts over 18,000 followers, with users keeping up to date with the latest developments. What’s more, the numbers on Instagram are even better at just under 160,000 followers.