At 3:04 p.m. Saturday, just after his dad's Missouri City shop Billy's Donuts closed for the afternoon, Billy By tweeted this:
My dad is sad cause no one is coming to his new donut shop 😭 pic.twitter.com/y5aGB1Acrc— billy (@hibillyby) March 9, 2019
"I was trying to let my friends know," Billy said. "I don't know who retweeted it but it just got big."
How big? By Sunday afternoon his tweet was retweeted more than 150,000 times. By Monday morning? More than 260,000 times. To put that in perspective, the 30th most retweeted tweet in Twitter history (by South Korean boy band BTS) has about 630,000 retweets.
Billy's Donuts is a chain with locations south of the 610 Loop (El Lago, Pearland, Pasadena, Sugar Land, and now Missouri City). By's dad, Satharith By, started the business more than 20 years ago in Pearland—naming it after his son—and oversaw the expansion. A few years ago, Billy's mom got sick, so to focus attention on her health, Satharith sold the Pasadena shop, and then the others to his family members.
But Billy's mom's condition improved, and the family got back into the game. They opened the newest Billy's Donuts on Thursday. By Saturday, the By family was getting worried about the lack of business, so Billy figured he'd reach out to some friends on Twitter. Then Billy's notifications started; he quickly let people know the address of the donut shop, and that it would be open Sunday morning.
Billy didn't get a lot of sleep Saturday night, so he drove over to the shop around 10 a.m. Sunday to find a line. At one point, the shop ran out of donuts and kolaches.
On Monday morning, Billy was being interviewed by other local news stations and working on a potential CNN spot, while representatives from Twitter were on hand greeting customers. Yes, Twitter. They bought out the store for the morning, meaning everyone's order was on them. (Representatives wouldn't comment on the record about their presence at the shop.) And while Billy played gracious host, Satharith kept busy in the back, and an aunt worked the cash register. It all seemed surreal that within 48 hours, this family-owned Cambodian donut shop in Missouri City had become something of an epicenter of social media.
Billy just hopes the virality can last for a while. He's actually flying to Europe later today, returning in two weeks. Maybe someone can step in and handle the social media until then.
"It's kind of bad timing for all this," he joked.