By Brenda Crowell
Staff at Lowell’s Restaurant in Mendon got a surprise on Sunday, January 9 – make that almost 4,000 surprises.
Twenty-one members of Wicked Smaht Zone, a local group of Peloton enthusiasts, came in for breakfast. The group left with fuller stomachs and emptier wallets after leaving a tip of $3,995 for a bill that totaled $365.45.
Wicked Smaht Zone leader and Mendon resident Josh Vernon said that the only person at Lowell’s who knew anything out of the ordinary was going to happen was owner Lydia Kotsianas.
“I mentioned we were coming with a group that had a surprise for the waitresses,” Vernon said. “Lydia wasn’t there that day, so I made sure I handed the tip to the manager as I walked out. Nobody knew until after we were gone. One of our guys was coming out of the restroom afterwards and said they were in awe.”
Kotsianas said that the generous tip was divided among all the employees working that day.
“I try to teach the employees to be grateful, and I think this is a great example,” she said. “We’ve been blessed with so much. We’ve weathered the pandemic pretty well. This was a great thing to happen.”
Vernon got the idea after seeing a post on Facebook about a group in Texas called Shock & Clause, which gathered 13 people to have a meal at a restaurant and had each person bring $100 to pay for their meal. The change from that $100 was each person’s tip.
“I told Wicked Smaht Zone that we have a community that loves to work out and do good things,” Vernon said. “We’ve done fundraisers in the past. Let’s do something bigger than 13 people.”
Members of the group came through and began sending Vernon money via Venmo.
“I went to the bank and took out $2,700 before the 21 of us even sat down,” he said. “Lowell’s made sense. We could have the group in the back room, and they had items on the menu that let us have a good breakfast but still have plenty of money left over to tip.”
Word spread quickly, even reaching Peloton, which retweeted a post from Juli McDonald of Boston TV station WBZ about the event. Vernon hopes the publicity will encourage others to follow suit.
“The fact that it has spread means more people are probably doing good acts,” he said. “The more eyes on it, the more people see it, the more people do good things. We’ve added more than 300 people to our group because they want to be part of our next fundraiser.”
Wicked Smaht Zone is already working on that next fundraiser. Twenty-eight members are registered for the Pan Mass Challenge (PMC), a two-day bike ride from Sturbridge to Provincetown that raises money for cancer.
“It made sense to pick an awesome event that ties into the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund,” said Vernon.
Last year, PMC raised $64 million for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Riders in the event commit to raise between $1,000 and $6,000.
“If they don’t bring in that much, they’re on the hook for it. We’re going to raise money for riders in our community to offset that. We got almost $3,000 in a week,” Vernon said.
Vernon started Wicked Smaht Group on February 28, 2021, with a Facebook group to create a local community of Peloton riders. The group is a Peloton Challenge team, with challenges usually lasting six or eight weeks with three or four rides per week.
“There are a lot of ways to ride with other riders,” he said. “You can hop on and ride. We had one with 97 of us together.”
“We’ve gotten such wonderful feedback. They are so great,” Kotsianas said of Wicked Smaht Zone. “They are amazing people.”
“I think what’s come out of all this and everything we’re working on is spreading the message,” said Vernon. “Do wicked good, whatever that means for you.”