Stephanie Wilkinson, who owns The Red Hen in Lexington, Virginia, asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave on Friday night. Now online reviewers are descending on the restaurant in droves with negative reviews and comments. On Twitter, Sanders shared: “Last night I was told by the owner of Red Hen in Lexington, VA to leave because I work for @POTUS and I politely left. Her actions say far more about her than about me. I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so.” Wilkinson has recently confirmed with media that yes, she was the one who asked Sanders to leave. She and John Blackburn founded the restaurant together, but Blackburn is no longer a co-owner.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. An Employee of Red Hen Said They Served Sanders for Two Minutes Before Wilkinson Asked Sanders To Leave Because Sander’s Moral Decisions Conflicted with Her Own
An employee went on Facebook and said that they had only been serving Sarah Huckabee Sanders for about two minutes before she was asked to leave.
In response to Facebook questions, the employee said that there was no provocation, she was just told to leave.
The employee then said: “My owner threw her out because she didn’t want the mouthpiece of Trump to eat in her restaurant.”
They also provided proof.
The employee later edited their comments to clarify. “My owner asked her to leave and she complied. Her family left on their own accord, we didn’t actually refuse service or ‘kick her out.'”
Sanders and the employee never referred to the owner by name, but both did refer to her as a woman. Wilkinson later spoke with the Washington Post, confirming it was her.
According to the employee who was serving Sanders and her family, the owner asked them to leave “because the owner felt that Sarah’s moral decisions conflicted with her own… The rest of the party left because they were related by marriage to her.”
When said that this would destroy the business, the employee responded: “My boss, the owner, kicked her out, not me. … Best publicity we could hope to have thank you very much.”
In an interview with The Washington Post, Wilkinson said the chef had informed her when Sanders arrived and said the staff was concerned. She was at home when the chef called her, and drove to The Red Hen to see for herself. The kitchen was preparing Sanders’ party’s main course. Wilkinson said several of their employees were gay and knew Sanders had defended President Donald Trump’s statements about banning transgender people from the military, and they were also all concerned about the immigration debate. Wilkinson said she asked her staff if they wanted her to ask Sanders to leave, and the staff said yes.
Wilkinson wanted to point out that Sanders had been served and not just refused service on sight. She said she asked Sanders to speak with her out on the patio. “I explained that the restaurant has certain standards that I feel it has to uphold, such as honesty and compassion,” she told The Washington Post. She said Sanders immediately agreed to leave and even offered to pay, but Wilkinson said, “No. It’s on the house.”
Unfortunately, another restaurant has gotten mixed up with The Red Hen in Lexington. The Red Hen in DC has been receiving a lot of negative press and attention today, but this restaurant is NOT the restaurant that asked Huckabee Sanders to leave. They posted the following statement today to clarify:
2. Stephanie Wilkinson & John Blackburn Founded the Restaurant To Offer a Farm-to-Table Dining Experience, But Blackburn Is No Longer a Co-Owner
The Red Hen is a quaint little restaurant in Virginia with a chapel-like design. Stephanie Wilkinson and John Blackburn founded the restaurant together, although Blackburn is no longer a co-owner. (This story originally stated that he was still a co-owner, but that was not correct.)
John Blackburn, a native of Charlottesville and instructional technologist at Washington and Lee, fell in love with the building when he moved to Lexington in 1998, Virginia Living reported. He’s an environmental activist, and he and Stephanie Wilkinson opened the restaurant together. It was Blackburn who chose the name of the restaurant, based on his love for the children’s story The Little Red Hen. When turning the building into a restaurant, their goal was to work with the architect to preserve the building’s historic character while also making the building as sustainable as possible.
On its website, The Red Hen’s tag line reads: “Farm to table fine dining.” Founded in 2008, it was the first farm-to-table dining in Shenandoah Valley. The website reads: “Each day we create a new menu based on the freshest and tastiest produce and meat, whether it is a ribeye steak from cattle raised by the Potter family, who have been farming in nearby Collierstown for seven generations, or a beet risotto using vegetables from Rancho Calixto, a family farm founded by immigrants from Mexico. This dedication to local food means each dish preserves the intricate flavors of the land. It’s also good for the environment and our local economy.”
The Red Hen only has very high reviews on Trip Advisor, rating 4.5 out of 5 stars for a total of 274 reviews. One of the few times they got a one-star review, in 2016, Wilkinson responded, in part: “I’m very sorry to hear that you didn’t enjoy your meal at Red Hen. We strive to do our best every day, and are distressed to hear that you found the food lacking… If we had known that you were dissatisfied with your meal, we would have done everything in our power to make it right on the night you visited. I’d like to contact you privately to discuss your experience. As you may see from other reviews, we hold ourselves to high standards and are committed to learning all we can from our customers’ experiences. All my best, Stephanie Wilkinson, owner”
3. Stephanie Wilkinson Is the Founder & Publisher of Brain, Child Magazine, & She Used to Work at a Weekly Charlottesville Newspaper
Wilkinson and Blackburn used to work together at the Charlottesville weekly newspaper,Virginia Living reported. She’s also the found and publisher of Brain, Child magazine, where she’s served since 1999, according to her LinkedIn profile.
According to Brain, Child’s website, the magazine was founded in 2000. It’s a literary magazine dedicated to motherhood. “Each issue contains personal essays, a short story, poetry, debates, book reviews and news. Contributors have included Pulitzer Prize-winning novelists Jane Smiley and Anne Tyler, best-selling authors Ann Hood and Barbara Ehrenreich, and acclaimed writers Antonya Nelson, Alice Hoffman, Patricia Hermes, Virginia Holman and Susan Maushart.” The magazine has received numerous awards.
The website states: “The magazine strives to bring together the many voices of women from different backgrounds, circumstances, and experiences in a way that provides mothers with insight and perspective into real issues. Thirteen years after its launch, Brain, Child is still often referred to as ‘The New Yorker for Mothers.'”
4. Wilkinson Is the Executive Director of Main Street Lexington, a Volunteer Organization Promoting Economic Prosperity in Downtown Lexington
According to her LinkedIn profile, Wilkinson has been the executive director of Main Street Lexington since 2014. According to Main Street’s website, the organization’s purpose is to “enhance the economic prosperity and cultural viability of our community, re-establishing downtown Lexington as the vibrant economic and cultural nexus of our area while maintaining its unique character.”
The volunteer organization was established in 2013. Its purpose is to revitalize the downtown with the goals of making Lexington “bustling with people living downtown,” “a hub of innovation, art and technology,” and “a magnet for destination travelers.”
The photo above, from Facebook, talked about Wilkinson and her dual role with a yarn company and Main Street. Wilkinson commented: “Strategizing about downtown business prosperity.”
When Wilkinson was chosen as the executive director, the Virginia Main Street publication said she was chosen partially because of “her natural abilities to cultivate collaborative partnerships throughout the downtown stakeholder community.”
Wilkinson has a bachelor of arts in English Literature and a PhD in European and American Religious History from the University of Virginia, according to her LinkedIn profile. She’s also an activist for women and participated in her local women’s march in 2017, sharing about it on Facebook, including photos like this one:
And this one.
5. Wilkinson Loves Knitting So Much That She Created a Business Centered Around It
Wilkinson is also co-owner of House Mountain Yarn Co., according to her LinkedIn profile. She has a bio on that site, explaining that she and three friends created the business together.
The website reads: “Combine four women, a love of knitting, and a yarn store and what do you have? House Mountain Yarn Co.!”
According to her bio on House Mountain Yard Co.: “Stephanie learned to knit and crochet at age seven from a maiden aunt, but she still feels she has a lot to learn. ”
Wilkinson is married and has two kids. Her husband is a philosophy professor, according to Wilkinson’s bio. According to his Facebook page, he worked at the Virginia Military Institute and studied at the University of Virginia and Oxford. His blog goes in-depth into philosophical arguments, including exploring whether Schopenhauer’s essay about women was entirely misogynistic or written ironically at times.
Wilkinson’s Facebook page has been taken over by people leaving angry comments about Red Hen.
This is a developing story.