Not even a pandemic would stop Kirk Crosby from taking his dad out to eat.

The Dothan father-and-son duo just had to revamp their approach. No longer able to dine in restaurants, they decided to start visiting local establishments for takeout lunches. With a degree in marketing, Kirk turned the outings into a way to support local businesses.

Since March, Kirk and David Crosby have visited local sandwich shops, Mexican restaurants, quaint cafes and Southern-style eateries. They’ve visited dessert bakeries and and have found some new places that are now among their favorite restaurants.

David Crosby will typically wait in the vehicle so as not to put himself at risk. But during a recent outing to Earnie’s Food Truck, David Crosby stood off to the side as Kirk approached the food truck’s window to place their orders.

At one point, he passes Kirk’s wallet to him.

“That’s what I come along for — to hold his wallet,” David Crosby joked.

Kirk Crosby’s efforts have gotten attention. The daily outings led to Kirk being highlighted on the Facebook page People of Alabama. He’s gotten calls from businesses in other parts of the state wanting him to come and visit. He’s even received offers for sponsorships.

“I love my city; I love the people of this city; I love just everything about it,” Kirk said. “I love small business. I thought, ‘I have to do something to help,’ and that’s how it started.”

The dining-out ritual for Kirk and David Crosby began in 2019. It was a way of coping with grief. In February 2019, they lost Kirk’s mother. Kirk’s aunt, his mother’s sister, died 30 days later. And in November, they lost Kirk’s younger brother — on his mother’s birthday. Kirk had moved in with his father to help care for his mother and stayed so the two could heal together.

“The grief was just overwhelming; and especially for my dad, it was beyond overwhelming,” Kirk said. “We started going to eat somewhere different every night that was local, so to speak. It was familiar. It was comfort food. It was something that we could look forward to. We kept doing that over into 2020.”

But in March news broke about Alabama cases of the new coronavirus and the illness it causes, COVID-19. There was talk of forced closings and social distancing. Restaurants, entertainment venues, gyms, and other close-contact businesses were closed under a public health order to help slow the spread of the virus.

Kirk Crosby had friends who owned small businesses. He listened as they worried about how they would make it if forced to close even for a few weeks. So, he began using his Facebook page as a platform to keep those businesses in the front of people’s minds.

Because he has turned the visits into a Facebook project, Kirk normally calls the owner of businesses before he visits to make sure the owner will be there and can have their photo taken. His “Out & About the Wiregrass With Kirk” posts typically include a photograph of Kirk at the business, sometimes with the owners. He includes basic information about each establishment as well as what he ordered that day or his favorite menu item.

Other Facebook groups have been created to support restaurants — there’s “Dothan Take Out’s Join-Share-Eat” and “Wiregrass Curbside, Delivery and Take Out.” Those pages are public groups, and members can post items such as menus and hours.

Kirk doesn’t accept offers of free meals because he sees it as supporting the business. And he’s been surprised by the messages from people who didn’t know a business even existed until they saw his post.

“It’s amazing to me the people in Dothan that don’t know who own small businesses,” he said.

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