Furniture sponsor takes pity on Paula Deen

Universal Furniture will still market the celebrity chef's line, but acknowledges many dealers aren't happy about the branding.

By Jason Notte Jul 25, 2013 4:26PM
Paula Deen (© Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)Well, it's official: The Paula Deen saga has reached the pity stage.

The celebrity chef faced accusations that she abused power while running her cooking empire. Deen faced public scorn and ridicule after a deposition in which she admitted to using racial slurs, doubled down on that admission by tacking on an "of course" and expressed a desire to have black waiters serve guests at a wedding "Southern plantation-style."

She then faced severe consequences for that admission and lost her Food Network show and deals with Wal-Mart (WMT), JCPenney (JCP), Target (TGT), Home Depot (HD) and QVC, while her namesake merchandise developed a fine layer of dust sitting in the warehouses of manufacturers stuck with it.

Now her remaining sponsors are digging in, but not out of a sense of outright support. The publisher of Deen's biographical comic book is going ahead with it, but only because the books are just about done, contain references to her fall from grace and are being sold to raise money for charity. Universal Furniture International, however, is sticking with Deen for the most depressing reason of all: Because it feels sorry for her.

The High Point Enterprise reports that the North Carolina furniture maker will continue to market the Paula Deen Home Collection. Universal Furniture head Jeff Scheffer diplomatically expressed the company's sympathy toward Deen's plight.

"Obviously, we feel terrible for Paula. The Paula we know -- and the one I believe you have gotten to know -- is not the same person as the one being portrayed in the media," said Jeff Scheffer, the top executive at Universal, in a letter to its retailers released Thursday afternoon.

"We have observed her as being kind and one who treats those around her with respect," he added. "Yes, she has acknowledged saying some hurtful things but she has also apologized, and we accept that. We also feel equally dismayed for those hurt by Paula’s remarks, which for certain do not represent our own diverse culture and beliefs at Universal."

That last part has made Universal Furniture's third-party sellers just a bit more upset than the furniture makers. For as many letters of support his company received, Scheffer acknowledges that some sellers have removed all references to Deen from displays featuring her furniture. Universal Furniture doesn't seem keen on taking either side of this argument, with Scheffer noting that her furniture has "become a rallying cry for some and a lightning rod for others."

The problem is that Universal still has a bunch of it kicking around, and it's not as easy to rebrand as, say, a jar of spices or a cooking set. The company also never said anything about making more of Deen's namesake furniture, just that it would continue to market what's already in stock. Even at the end of his statement, Scheffer sounded less like a Deen fan and more like a man with some furniture to sell.

"What everyone seems to agree on," he says, "is that the product design is strong and her collections continue to sell well."

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Jul 25, 2013 5:54PM
Good for them. At least one company has a little sense and does not give in to the few people who seem to always want to stir pot
Jul 25, 2013 6:20PM
Get over it all you racists. It was quite a few years ago. Stop being so political correct.
Jul 25, 2013 7:14PM
I would like to know who she has pizzed off!!  This whole thing has gone way beyond reasonable.
Jul 25, 2013 5:49PM
I thought we were a forgiving sort in this country. Instead.....we are sort of forgiving.
Jul 25, 2013 8:27PM
The food net work has lost me for the hatchet job.
Jul 25, 2013 5:48PM
Jason Notte, you need to get a heart and stop making comments that you know nothing about.  Taking pity on Paula Deen is far from what this company has done.  They have responded to the public outcry concerning Paula and the person she is.  Nothing more, Pity is a strong word to use.  Also, they make money off Paula Deen furniture and there are a lot of people in this country that still back her.  These citizens will stop using products by the companies that dropped her and shopping at the stores that dropped her and they will become faithful consumers to the brands that have kept her line going.  So pity is not the word to use but maybe being a wise business operator.
Jul 26, 2013 12:47PM
How dare you say that the company is taking pity on Paula?  They are the only company with the rocks to stick by her, knowing that she has done nothing wrong and does not deserve this total and complete social and financial ruin. I am so d a m n  tired of MSN slamming whites and automatically pushing the black agenda (along with the gay agenda), and supporting any and all whining and wailing from blacks and their so-called leaders, no matter how unfounded it is.  This has now reached ridiculous and unacceptable proportions.  I have taken the food  network out of my cable package, and do not shop at any stores who have not renewed Paula's contracts, and who have stopped carrying her products. I mentioned in another post that I will be furnishing my new home this winter entirely with products from Universal Furniture International. Every other company that has methodically and intentionally decided to destroy Paula just so they can be on the PC bandwagon can go straight to h e l l.
Jul 26, 2013 12:33PM

Well at least there is a furniture manu I can support. I have already dropped any cable programming that dropped her. I don't shop at any retailers that dropped her. This is America after all. Prove it.

But at least through all this we have found out that the other side is even more racist.

Jul 26, 2013 8:18AM
It has already started...... There will be hundreds of "parasites" falling out of the trees trying to suck money out of Deen for one reason or another. The blood suckers are moving in for their share. The bigots need to get over it and concentrate on what is really wrong with this country - the bigots. 
Aug 5, 2013 9:11PM
Favorite Chef I will stick by her because the one who without sin cast the first stone.  Everybody says something they regret but its funny the attack is always on someone famous with money.  I think she is a true Southern Lady with style and grace.  I have not watched the Food Network Channel since the let her go.  We are planning a vacation to Savannah just to eat at Lady and Sons and Uncle Bubba's.
Aug 5, 2013 8:34PM

I guess I don't understand the back lash against Paula Deen.  Yes she admitted to saying the "N" word and that was YEARS AGO, not recently!! She says she was sorry for that and doesn't say it any more, so why punish her for PAST wrongs.  Not like any who are against her didn't say something they should not have said.  No one should use that word yet the Blacks do. They say they can, well in my book, no one should.  Dictionary from what I read a long time ago states it mean a stupid person, so that could be Any One.


I think it is wrong for these other companies to drop Paula Deen for Past wrongs like they are now.  It makes me not want to shop at those stores and I haven't.  I will pay attention to the ones I do shop at and if they don't, I will quit them also.  All the other Celebrities just have to go to Rehab for saying something wrong.   If you are with out sin... then cast the stone at her, but as Jesus writes out all of our sins... it shows we are not with out sin, so Forgive her!!!

Aug 6, 2013 6:59PM
A company with balls and does not cave in to real racist in this b******t crucifixion.  All you people claiming you are hurt and feel such overwhelming personal discrimination just think back when you were all cheering when O.J. got off.  The dancing in the streets and people cheering at work and leaving early.  I think we all should boycott Wallmart, Target, Qvc, home depot and all the other companies that dropped her.  They are the real criminal racists.
Jul 26, 2013 11:21AM
Jul 26, 2013 2:22PM

 Wal-Mart, JCPenney, Target, Home Depot and QVC don't want to do business with anyone who has ever uttered a racial slur??? Even if we were young, unenlightened and now very sorry for our thoughtless remarks???


Fortunately there are alternatives.

I think people forgive her, but that doesn't mean they forget what she did.  If you are going to place someone on a pedestal, celebrate the person she is by paying her millions of dollars, she better be a role model.  If she isn't then take her celebrity away and leave her to her own hard work.  She's still able to run her restaurants and people are still able to eat there.  Does she need to be the face of the ACME Lard company?  No.  Any good wholesome American capitalist business would be making a good business decision to stay away from her.  She's toxic right now.  An VietVet, you come from an era before being PC was a standard.  So I can see why you wouldn't want that to change, because now you have to watch your own mouth.  But I unlike you, I don't see being PC as bad.  I see it as being curteous to those around you.  Being PC means that you care beyond your own circle of reality.  Maybe, if we were more curteous to those whose character is worthy of such behavior, regardless of whether we ever meet them face to face or not, this world would be a better place.  But you can't see that, or at least you don't want to, because you want to be able to be a grumpy old racist and not have anyone call you out on it because it shows you the side of reality that hurts you deep down inside.  You don't want to think of yourself as a white supremacist, but when you decry language that is accepting of others you reinforce the verbage that has allowed the oppresion of millions of people to perpetuate along in time.  Do you only see your service in Vietnam as service to your country and not as helping a group of people avoid persecution under a ruthless dictator?  Are you a Vet that feels we should've killed everyone in Vietnam?
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