The man holding the reins of the Pony Express and its humorous Twitter account has grown the food truck phenomenon exponentially since he took over in July of 2014.
Joseph Woods, assistant manager of Dining Services and Racer Hospitality, was handed control of the Pony Express one year after its start in July of 2013. A man of average height and a tan complexion, Woods started working at the University in 2007 even before he obtained a degree here in 2011.
Woods also spearheaded the ideas of Wild Wing Wednesdays at Winslow, Campus Pizza and the installation of Big Ass Fans in Winslow. The Pony Express, though, was the first of his “brain children,” as he calls them, to go viral on a social medium.
Nicholas Buckingham, assistant manager of Dining Services and Racer Hospitality, set up the Pony Express in 2013 and managed it until Woods took over in 2014. The Twitter account has since grown in followers from about 480 to more than 1,300. While Woods does not drive the truck or serve the food, he writes the specials and controls the options it provides.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it,” he said.
While Dining Services has Emily Asher, manager of data and communications, to handle all of its social media, the Pony Express has Woods.
Woods tweets the daily movements of the truck, the weekly specials and answers questions students tweet at him. The account isn’t afraid to joke with students and has no qualms about responding with- “bae” and other terms of endearment.
“I think it’s important to at least relate to the students,” he said. “You can’t take Twitter too seriously. That’s not what it’s supposed to be for.”
The Pony’s roaming isn’t limited to University grounds, however. It extends into several apartment complexes and neighborhoods that are primarily occupied by Murray State students, such as the Cambridge neighborhoods. The Pony also serves both Campus Evolution Villages North and South on a month-by-month catering contract.
The food truck has continued to be successful, regardless of the fact that its menu went from 30 offerings to 12 in the summer of 2014. The change was a result of a seminar at a conference Woods attended where he and other food service professionals discussed the benefits of limited offerings in the food truck setting.
Now, he and the employees of Pony Express try to offer selections their patrons can’t find anywhere else on campus or in the City of Murray.
Its success is seemingly in large part due to its interactive Twitter presence that entertains and informs students.
Unlike many other Murray State platforms, Pony Express’ online presence is untouched by University administration and censorship.
“I guess I’m fortunate that they haven’t put strict regulations on what I’m allowed to do,” Woods said. “I’ve been given a lot of chances to create opportunities.”
This success has prompted students to question if a second Pony Express is coming anytime soon.
“I wouldn’t dare say it any louder than a whisper,” Woods said. “We’re not at that level yet, although I imagine if we continue on this path of success it might have to happen.”
Regardless of the number of trucks, Woods and his Pony plan on staying for the long haul.
The man who has been called “the most booty-called man in Murray” promises that he and the Pony Express are “more than happy to deliver.”
Story by Kayla MacAllister, Staff writer