The Washington Post published an op-ed from the owner of a Virginia restaurant who booted White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders a year ago. The owner says that despite the threats made to her and on her business, she’s glad she did it. She said business has never been better.
Stephanie Wilkinson, the owner of the Red Hen restaurant, said that even though taking a stand can be risky, it’s the right thing to do and it can pay off in the end.
When the incident to took place, Williamson said it was handled very respectfully. She said her staff contacted her and said they were not comfortable serving Sanders so she did what she felt was right.
“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. 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, 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.”
Wilkinson was forced to close for ten days once word got out about the encounter. The media attention was not planned and resulted in a lot of threats towards her and the business. She said “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.”
Trump was one of the attackers on Twitter. Wilkinson said his attack only escalated things further. “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.”
Buried in all the hateful messages she was receiving she noticed something. “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.”
One year later her business is 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. 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.”
She shares a lesson to take away from this ordeal saying: “To everyone who might be fearful about taking a stand, I say don’t be. Resistance is not futile, for you or your business.”