CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — One man’s passion for the food and beverage industry is connecting thousands of Centre County community members with local vendors.

“I started Braden Social Media a little over seven years ago, without a clear direction in terms of an industry or clients, though I found myself kind of gravitating toward the hospitality industry,” said Eric Braden Zimmett, principal of Braden Social Media.

About a year ago, he found his niche.

“During the pandemic, restaurants, all businesses were struggling, suffering, and facing all these new challenges,” said Zimmett.

He said he wanted to help them, his clients, and the community navigate the changing industry. After consulting with friends, he launched the State College Eats Facebook group.

“It took off rather quickly,” said Zimmett. “In a month we were at about 1,200 members, now we’re at about 2,000.”

The Facebook group is a place to share eatery recommendations, specials, events, and hospitality news. It’s sister group, State College Drinks, follows the same model for bars, breweries, wineries, and so on.

The community’s response and Zimmett’s roots in journalism, prompted him to launch another outlet for food and beverage news: “The Pub” podcast.

“One of the things that draws me to this industry is all the stories and what goes on behind the scenes,” said Zimmett. “There’s so many stories to tell, especially now… so many stories that people inside might not know, might not realize are exciting or interesting.”

Zimmett said he hopes his listeners feel immersed in the podcast’s ambiance.

“To sit down and be able to have a drink with a guest and have a very casual conversation where those stories come out, that’s my goal with it,” said Zimmett. “To have an unedited, just kind of raw, pub-style conversation.”

The first episode launched on Saint Patrick’s Day and featured Gary Brandeis, founder and president of the Scholar Hotel Group. On deck, Zimmett will have conversations with The Blonde Bistro, The Allen Street Grill, Hotel State College, Axemann Brewery, Kelly’s Steak and Seafood, Federal Taphouse, Seven Mountains Wine Cellar.

“After people listen to the podcast too, I welcome suggestions for people I should sit down with,” said Zimmett.

The podcast can be found on Spotify or Anchor.

“I hope it almost serves as a very natural, casual conversation… it’s almost as if they’re a part of, or overhearing a conversation between two people at a pub,” said Zimmett. “Talking about stories, the business, or the owner, the industry, from challenges to successes.”