An online review of a small-town restaurant has sparked a nationwide wave of support for its owners.
When Alexia Black wrote her Facebook review for Saluté, a restaurant and tapas bar in Greytown, Wairarapa, she probably didn't imagine it would have such an impact.
The customer revealed she visited the restaurant - which she loved - despite being advised by a local Greytown shopkeeper not to go there - the owners were "two gay men" and locals didn't eat there.
"Came to Greytown this weekend with my wife and our friends for a chill day, looking at the shops. Asked by a shopkeeper where we were going to have lunch we said Saluté looked good online. We were told it was owned by two gay men from America and that 'locals don't eat there'," Black wrote.
"When we asked what was wrong with the food we were told they couldnt comment on the food as they hadn't eaten there in a year, but that we should drive to the next town, Carterton, for lunch. She also commented that it was a real shame and she hoped something nice could be done with the place in future. So of course these queers walked straight to Saluté."
Black said the "food, atmosphere and service were all fantastic".
"Asking to speak to the Manager, we sat him down and told him what had happened. He wasn't surprised at all, and the quiet emotion in his eyes showed us they had been battling for a while and it hurt deeply. We told him we'd loved our meal and would be back, and apologised to him for the way they have been treated in NZ.
"If you love great food and hate bigotry and small mindedness, book a table at Saluté and show these lovely men that Aotearoa is no place for hate," she wrote.
The review, posted on the restaurant's Facebook page, had more than 1000 reactions in just 15 hours. It has also been shared on Twitter. Across both social media platforms, people from all over New Zealand are pledging to visit Greytown and eat at Saluté, in a show of support and a firm stand against the discrimination the owners suffered.
"Will be especially making the trip when I'm next in Wellington," one person wrote on Twitter.
"Haven't stopped by Greytown in a hot minute but this will be my first stop when I do for sure," another Twitter user said.
"Look forward to eating there I when I'm next over. Will take the whānau. Hope I can get a table! Looks like they are about to get a lot busier," someone else wrote.
'We were floored by this'
Saluté is owned by Ken Miller and his husband Jason Brumbaugh. The two Americans moved to Greytown just over two years ago and say that, while they have previously had a couple of other negative encounters with locals, those do not represent the town.
"We love Greytown, it is a vibrant, beautiful village and we've had mostly good experiences in our time here," Miller told the Herald.
The couple are permanent residents in New Zealand and are looking forward to getting their citizenship. Having travelled and worked all over the world, they both feel that, in New Zealand, they've truly found home.
That said, this was not completely new to the couple. "We had a few negative experiences of people walking in and not even ordering food, just telling us 'we don't do things the American way around here'," Miller says.
Having grown up in a small town in the US as well, he says he understands the intricacies that come with village life and says he knows they're not going to be "everyone's cup of tea".
"Food is subjective but that doesn't change the fact that our team make every effort possible to make a great experience for everyone," he says.
"People here have been lovely, for the most part. It's why we fell in love with New Zealand and decided to move here."
The couple lived in Westport, in the South Island, before taking over Saluté and making Greytown their home. "I know the inner workings of small towns, that's why, in the first year, we didn;t change anything. Then we slowly started making changes and now we have our new menu."
Miller and Brumbaugh say they are "all about community and inclusivity". They work with a range of local businesses and contribute to charitable causes, including the local hospice and helping out with the school.
They say the incident, while it hurt, did not change the way they see Greytown.
"That kind of 'discrimination' exists in all communities. People see something that is different, something they don't know, and they don't know how to react. But that does not define the community."
"Greytown is a vibrant and beautiful place where most care about the community and the citizens that live within and outside its boundaries, regardless of their differences. What is unfortunate is that bigotry and discrimination exist between the lines in all places," Miller said in response to the review.
"[The shopkeeper's] choice and desire of trying to taint our reputation and prevent business from walking through our doors is questionable indeed and does sting. But from our perspective, it is even sadder in that it puts a negative filter on our town and the other people here who do believe in inclusivity and a place for all. We can say with certainty that many people in this wonderful little town have been supportive and inviting, exactly like the Kiwi experience we had when visiting prior," Miller added.
"We were shocked because we lived in Westport and, when we moved there, people said we'd have a difficult time in a mining community and we had no difficulty at all," he told the Herald.
He knows exactly who the shopkeeper who made that comment is but says he doesn't want to name and shame. The person in question has never spoken directly to them or eaten at their restaurant.
"We were floored by this because, to be completely honest, we only had one incident of a minister preaching at us once and, that time, all other Kiwis around came to our defence as well."
'The New Zealand we fell in love with'
"It's been extraordinary to see the response of people. We've had such an outpouring of support, with people telling us that this is not New Zealand. We agree with it. When we left the US, we chose New Zealand because we love it so much.
"This is the NZ we fell in love with. It's overwhelming in a beautiful way," Miller says.
The restaurant owners hope the incident sparks a wider conversation about "where this stems from" and about the way small towns operate.
"We absolutely love it here. One of the things we fell in love with in New Zealand is how welcoming it is.
"That's why an incident like this is a bit jarring because you get so spoiled."
"We have so many people from Wellington, Kapiti Coast, Hawkes Bay … repeat customers all the time."