— From the pages of Taysted Issue #4 • Photo by Will Marks
Starla. The name’s etymology is an elaborated version of the word “star.” In many ways Starla Russell, co-owner of the Horse Inn, epitomizes the definition of this word—but in many ways she does so modestly, and without realizing. Stars are points of luminescence in an otherwise open sky. Starla Russell emits a similar brilliance in her hospitable, generous personality.
She was raised in western Tennessee by her mother and her father, a preacher. Following culinary school, she received a bachelor’s degree in restaurant management in 2001 from Johnson and Wales University. “It was just me and my dog,” she says with a smile. “We traveled to Charleston, South Carolina to see where life took us.” And that’s where she fell in love with her husband, Matt Russell, owner and head chef of the restaurant.
“We got married and had our little boy, Kyuss, and really wanted to follow a dream,” Starla says. They picked up their life and moved to Lancaster to be closer to Matt’s family and to create a change of pace from the busy nightlife in Charleston. Their dream was to open a locally influenced restaurant together, and as soon as they walked into the historical Horse Inn, they knew it was the one.
What has made the Horse Inn so successful in its one year since re-opening? Comfort. Whether you’re in a three-piece suit or covered in tattoos, you are greeted like family. Great care is taken in choosing the ingredients with which your meals—and cocktails—are prepared. The restaurant has become a local favorite—the type of destination visitors strive to find and locals strive to support. The Horse Inn feels like home, and Starla Russell plays a pivotal part in making it so.