A Leesburg small business owner found a startling surprise sitting in her inbox this morning.
"Are you an anti-election establishment?" the subject line of an email noted. "We are compiling a list of local Leesburg businesses that are openly hostile to customers who voted for Donald Trump. Before we publish, we'd like to give the opportunity to refute tips we've received ... Could you please comment? If we hear nothing, we will assume these comments are legitimate and will publish your information in an upcoming guide."
Nicole Morgenthau, the owner of Finch Knitting + Sewing Studio and receiver of the email, was jarred.
"My immediate reaction was a little bit of fear," Morgenthau told the Times-Mirror today. "Immediately I thought, 'Oh my gosh, what's going to happen?' The business is like my fourth child."
Morgenthau responded to the provided name and email address the only way she knew how. She wrote:
"We are not and never have been hostile toward any human being who wishes to step foot in the front door of Finch. As a matter of fact, the very groundwork of Finch has always been to be a place of inclusiveness. We acknowledge and embrace that we have customers who come from a wide variety of political, racial, and religious backgrounds. Just as this diversity of beliefs occurs in many of our own families, the Finch family is a safe haven, a neutral space where any and all beliefs are sacred and anybody should feel welcome. All belong here.
My favorite thing about Finch is that when I walk through the doors and see your pretty faces, we meet on common ground. We rise above all the anxiety of the day to focus on something that connects us rather than what divides us. Just remember, you belong here.
All my love, Nicole"
The email, which Morgenthau forwarded to the Times-Mirror, appeared to be sent from an individual named Michelle Madigan. The "reply to" email was listed as firstname.lastname@example.org. The Times-Mirror has reached out to the sender and not received a reply.
Morgenthau said Finch was listed in various forums as supporter of last weekend's Women's March on Washington and "the movement," but she stressed she would never be hostile to anyone of any political stripe who walks through her doors.
"We carry yarn and we teach people to knit, but we didn't do an event specific for [the march]," she said. "I take it very personally who comes in my door every day. I know people very well who voted on both sides. I hope both sets of people will find common ground."
Morgenthau shared the main segment of the initial email and her response on the Finch Facebook page around 9 a.m. Thursday morning. As of 11:15 a.m., the post had received 78 "likes" and other reactions, 51 "shares" and 67 comments, most of which were statements in support of Morgenthau.
This is a Times-Mirror news alert. Check back for more information as it becomes available.