In an op-ed for the Washington Post, the owner of a Virginia restaurant who booted out White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders says that despite death threats and attacks on her place of business she’s glad she did it — and that her business is better than ever.
According to Stephanie Wilkinson, the co-owner of the Red Hen restaurant, who gained national attention one year ago when she asked Sanders and her party to leave, taking a stand is not only the right thing to do — but can pay off in the end.
According to Wilkinson the whole conversation with Sanders was handled respectfully after her staff contacted her and said they were not comfortable serving the controversial spokesperson for President Donald Trump.
“I’ve been getting hate mail for almost a year now, ever since I asked White House press secretary Sarah Sanders to leave my Lexington, Va., restaurant, the Red Hen, last June,” she wrote. “At the time, the country was in turmoil over the Trump administration’s heinous practice of separating children from their parents at our southern border. In our tiny 26-seat restaurant, the horror felt simultaneously immediate and far away.”
“Faced with the prospect of serving a fine meal to a person whose actions in the service of our country we felt violated basic standards of humanity, we balked. We couldn’t do it,” she explained, adding, “I took Ms. Sanders aside and politely suggested she leave. She agreed, equally politely. She may or may not have expected this day would come, but she never showed any sign of outrage, or even much surprise. We’d drawn a line; she’d accepted it.”
According to Wilkinson, when news got out about the ouster, she was forced to close for ten days because of threats and media attention that she hoped would not come.
“The blowback was swift and aggressive,” she wrote. “Within 24 hours, the restaurant’s phone line was hacked, my staff and I were doxxed, and threats to our lives and families and property were pouring in through every available channel. Protesters colonized the streets around the restaurant. Thousands of fake Yelp reviews torpedoed our ratings, and dozens of people attempted to lock up our tables with reservations they had no intention of honoring.”
Pointing out that Trump joined the fray by attacking her establishment on Twitter, Wilkinson noted that his repose made her troubles worse with her postman forced to deliver massive bundles of hate mail sent from all over the country.
“In more than 4,000 painstakingly typed letters, hastily scrawled postcards, and feces-smeared notebook pages, I was branded a racist, a bigot and a hypocrite. A victim of ‘Trump Derangement Syndrome.’ I was an idiot, or worse, and a lousy manager. Sure, I’d 86’d Sanders, but it was my business that was going down the drain,” she admitted, but then, “as I kept opening the letters, I saw a pattern. For every hateful message, there was one of gratitude. For every angry accusation that our actions were driven by the inability to accept Hillary Clinton’s 2016 loss, there was a note of thanks from someone lamenting Trump’s rollback of protections for marginalized people. What’s more, for every wish that our business die a painful death, there was a dollar bill or a generous check or an order for a gift certificate.”
According to Wilkinson, one year later, her business is not only thriving — it’s doing better than ever.
“When we opened after a 10-day hiatus, our dining room was full. In the following weeks, people who had never been to the Shenandoah Valley traveled out of their way to eat with us … And the love spread far beyond our door, as supporters sent thousands of dollars’ in donations in our honor to our local food pantry, our domestic violence shelter and first responders,” she wrote.”After nearly a year, I’m happy to say that business is still good. Better than good, actually. And besides the boost to our area charities, our town’s hospitality and sales revenue have gone up, too.”
According to Wilkinson, there is a lesson for everyone that can be gleaned from her Trump travails.
“Our haters may have believed that there were more of ‘them’ than of ‘us,’ but it turns out we have more than enough to keep us cooking,” she advised. “And to everyone who might be fearful about taking a stand, I say don’t be. Resistance is not futile, for you or your business.”
You can read the whole piece here.