Deen controversy may tie into furniture market

Jun. 24, 2013 @ 05:24 PM

Will Paula Deen ever show up again as an invited guest during the High Point Market?
Deen drew rave reviews as the highest-profile celebrity in High Point this past April for the spring furniture market. In addition to touting her home furnishings line, Deen appeared with local students during a culinary competition through Guilford Technical Community College.
But in the wake of reports about racially insensitive comments attributed to the TV star chef and Southern cultural icon, Deen’s future as a celebrity on a High Point Market stage could be in question.
Deen apologized in two separate Internet videos Friday and sought the forgiveness of her fans and the public, though she didn’t directly address the specifics of her reported remarks. In court depositions from May, Deen is reported to have acknowledged that she used the racially charged “N-word” to describe black people. Deen also is reported to have said that her concept of an ideal wedding would involve black men dressed in costume of the plantation slave period of the South.
Deen was released from her contract with the Food Network late last week, as the cable TV network dismissed its longtime marquee star in the immediate aftermath of the controversy.
But the company that markets the Paula Deen home furnishings line, Universal Furniture International Inc., didn’t cut ties with her. Late Monday afternoon, Universal Furniture continued to promote its Paula Deen line of home furnishings on the home page of its corporate website. In addition to its High Point Market showroom, Universal Furniture maintains a corporate office and operation in north High Point.
However, the chief executive of Universal Furniture sent a letter to the company’s retail customers about the controversy.
“As you know, the hype around this matter has many people rushing to judgment as well as many others rushing to Paula’s defense. We believe it is only fair to you, our dealer, our company and frankly Paula herself to let the facts play out before taking any action. We have had several conversations with Paula and her team over the weekend,” writes Jeff Scheffer, president and chief executive officer of Universal.
Scheffer emphasized in the letter, though, that Universal doesn’t “tolerate discrimination ... Discrimination of any sort is contrary to both our personal and our corporate philosophy. Our company is in fact full of diversity and we are richer for it.”
A representative with the High Point Market Authority, which oversees operations of the trade show, couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.
GTCC doesn’t have any future appearances scheduled with Deen at this time, said college spokeswoman Carla Kucinski.
“However, GTCC remains grateful for Ms. Deen’s support of our culinary students this past April when they competed in Paula Deen’s Great Party Challenge at the High Point furniture market. The event gave our students an outlet to showcase their talents,” Kucinski told The High Point Enterprise.

pjohnson@hpe.com | 888-3528