'Resistance is not futile, for you or your business,' says the restaurant owner who famously refused to serve Sarah Sanders.
Almost a year after kicking White House press secretary Sarah Sanders out of her restaurant, Red Hen owner Stephanie Wilkinson not only stands by her decision as the right thing to do — she also says it's been good for both her business and her community.
"After nearly a year, I'm happy to say that business is still good," Wilkinson wrote in a Tuesday op-ed in the Washington Post. "Better than good, actually. And besides the boost to our area charities, our town’s hospitality and sales revenue have gone up, too."
Wilkinson was thrust into the national spotlight in June 2018 after Sanders attempted to eat at the Red Hen, a small restaurant in Lexington, Virginia. Wilkinson asked Sanders to leave because of her support of Trump's unconscionable family separation policy at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The benefit to both her restaurant and the surrounding community, Wilkinson said, came from Americans who supported her decision to take a stand against Sanders, and who expressed that support by visiting Wilkinson's restaurant or donating to nearby charities and businesses.
The family separation policy that Sanders defended resulted in thousands of children — including infants and toddlers — being ripped away from their parents or other family members and tossed into cages. The Trump administration still has not reunited all the families who were separated, and Trump has already broken his promise to stop separating additional families.
"This feels like the moment in our democracy when people have to make uncomfortable actions and decisions to uphold their morals," Wilkinson told the Post shortly after the incident. Wilkinson said she told Sanders that "the restaurant has certain standards that I feel it has to uphold, such as honesty, and compassion, and cooperation," and then asked Sanders to leave.
Sanders left without incident, only to later use the episode to attack Wilkinson and the Red Hen from the podium of the White House press room. Trump himself also later attacked Wilkinson and her restaurant.
As a result of this incitement from Sanders and Trump, Wilkinson and her family received death threats and feces-smeared letters attacking her, and the Red Hen received a flood of negative reviews on websites like Yelp.
Due to protests and intense attention, the Red Hen was forced to close for 10 days following the incident. But when it reopened, Wilkinson said she saw an outpouring of love and support.
"In the following weeks, people who had never been to the Shenandoah Valley traveled out of their way to eat with us," she said. "Hundreds of orders for our Red Hen spice blend poured in. 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."
In the end, Wilkinson has a message for everyone who stands up against the immorality and cruelty of the Trump administration:
"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. 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."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.