In the wake of the controversy surrounding a media smear campaign about Paula Deen’s use of the N-word, fans of the host of three popular Food Network television shows have taken to social media, and U.S. mail in support of the Queen of Southern Cuisine. Pre-orders of Deen’s latest cookbook, “Paula Deen’s New Testament: 250 Favorite Recipes, All Lightened Up” skyrocketed over the last few days along with sales of Deen’s popular cookbook collection, kitchen and housewares, and home furnishings.
Stitches ‘n Dishes has been covering the ongoing developments in Deen’s battle to clear her name through a persistent media blitz, and launched the Stitches ‘n Dishes Paula Deen Store on its website as fans rush to the nearest retailer to purchase Paula Deen products in support.
The Stitches ‘n Dishes Paula Deen Store has been dedicated in honor of The Bag Lady Foundation, founded by Deen in May. The Stitches ‘n Dishes Paula Deen Store, powered by Amazon features 340 home and kitchen products, 36 books and DVD’s, and 85 grocery items from the Paula Deen product lines. Commission proceeds from the sale of products in the store will be donated to The Bag Lady Foundation, appropriately named after Deen’s first catering business in addition to a “matching contribution” of $500.00 by Stitches ‘n Dishes.
The Bag Lady Foundation, still in its infancy stages, plans to help people, communities and like-minded organizations to empower those facing a range of challenges resulting from poverty. The foundation plans to raise money from a variety of financial resources, including a percentage of the net proceeds from Paula Deen Foods. It also will accept public and private donations. To date, the foundation has received financial commitments from Meyer Inc. and the FOX Network show “Master Chef.”
“It was a spur of the moment thing,” the founder of the fan page, John Schmitt told Stitches ‘n Dishes. “I was listening to what’s going on and thought, ‘this is ridiculous.’” Schmitt, 49, the lead night auditor for a major hotel chain in Indianapolis, Indiana recalled when fans sent over nine tons of peanuts to CBS when it announced the cancellation of “Jericho” in 2007.
“I thought everyone should send an empty butter wrapper to Food Network and Scripps,” he said. “And now I guess I’m doing some planning.”
With an increasingly large base of Deen supporters rallying together on the world’s largest social media platform comes an extraordinary force capable of delivering a very strong message to sponsors and partners who have parted ways with the Deen camp.
The powerful base of loyal Deen fans quickly organized to flood the social media pages and call centers for Food Network, sponsors and partners who have abandoned ship, sending a message not only to those cutting ties, but telling those who haven’t that they’ve won their support. The list of those supporting Paula Deen and Paula Deen Enterprises far surpasses the list of those who do not. Partners and sponsors who remain in the Deen camp or have made public statements of support include:
Alice Travel/Royal Caribbean Cruises
Metropolitan Cooking Demo
Springer Mountain Farms
Knoxville Wholesale Furniture
Club Marketing Services, Arkansas
Metro Cooking Show Dallas
New York City Wine & Food Festival
Schmitt encourages Deen supporters to reach out to sponsors and partners on both sides of the fence to urge them to continue their relationships with Deen, and they’re willing to make swift adjustments to their shopping habits to prove their point. The voice of the customer is extremely powerful, but when combined with volume and dollars, their message can be devastating for any business.
UPDATED: Food Network, Sears/K-Mart, JC Penney, QVC, Target, Walmart, Walgreens, Smithfield Farms, Home Depot, Caesars Entertainment, Ballantine Books and Novo Nordisk have publicly denounced Paula Deen, severed ties and swiftly distanced themselves from America’s Southern culinary sweetheart.
However, a growing list of celebrities, activists, service providers and journalists have made public statements in support of Deen, including:
President Jimmy Carter
Rev Jesse Jackson
Rev Al Sharpton
NFL Pro Bowler, Kris Jenkins
Stacey Dash, Clueless
Amber D / Classicly Amber
The Sweet and Savory Sisters
ABC’s, The Chew (Mario Batali, Carla Hall, Clinton Kelly, Daphne Oz, Michael Symon)
Stitches ‘n Dishes
Pastor Gregory A. Tyson Sr., First Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church in Savannah, Georgia spoke out in support of Deen.
The Bag Lady Foundation is a personal passion for Deen; it’s named it after one of the first businesses she started, during an extremely difficult period in her life. In 1989, after her marriage of 25 years ended in divorce, she was left with only $200 and money was tight raising both her kids and her younger brother, Bubba. She worked, hanging wallpaper, as a bank teller, and selling real estate and insurance. She then started a catering service, making sandwiches and meals, which her sons Jamie and Bobby delivered, and named it “The Bag Lady.”
Today, Deen is well known for her Southern Cooking passion, having sold more than 8,000,000 of her 14 cookbooks and received an Emmy Award nomination for her work as host of “Paula’s Best Dishes.” Deen’s landmark restaurant, The Lady & Sons, based in Savannah, Georgia, has been the launch pad for an expanding restaurant empire. In addition to her food products, Deen has a highly successful line of Paula Deen Cookware, as well as Paula Deen Home, which features furniture and other products.