|Colleen McGrath/Staff Photographer|
Paula Deen’s fans and supporters turned out in force Saturday to meet their idol at a publicity event held at the Hagerstown Premium Outlets.
Deen was in Hagerstown for a meet and greet at Wolf Furniture, a store located at the outlet mall.
A long line snaked outside the door and deep into the parking lot in the early afternoon as people stood patiently for a few seconds with the celebrity chef. Some bought ice cream from a truck parked nearby.
Gene Stoltz, president of Wolf Furniture, estimated that about 1,500 people had showed up.
“We were not expecting so many people,” Stoltz said. “I started getting phone calls that people are lining up at 7’o clock this morning, and we didn’t have her coming in till 11.”
Deen, who was scheduled to be at the store for three hours, sat at a table signing her book, magazines and other items brought by her fans.
Nancy Lawlor, a Hagerstown resident, got Deen to autograph the back of one of her spatulas.
“I am going to hang it up,” she said. “I love her cookware. I just love her personality.... She is just so down to Earth.”
Her daughter, Chrissy Nieman, said that she was thrilled that she got a chance to speak to Deen.
“I have breast cancer, and she was asking me about my cancer and my treatments and things like that, and wished me the best of luck,” Nieman said. “She is a nice, and sweet, a real person.”
Stoltz said Deen promotes a line made by a company called Universal Furniture.
“It is a licensing group with Paula. Paula helps design it and puts it out to the retail people,” Stoltz said.
The furniture line includes “down-home country, some painted furniture, some white and black and gray colors, a little more country feel.”
Kaye James, who is from Stephens City, Va., said she was a Deen fan because of her “political problem.”
“I just want to support her here,” James said. “She wasn’t dealt with properly. Her recipes are good. All that butter is good.”
Another fan, Gloria Bastain, a Hagerstown resident, said Deen “got a dirty deal when they started taking her advertisements away and everything.”
James and Bastain were talking about a controversy last year in which Deen was accused of using a racial epithet.
Last summer, a former employee accused her of racial discrimination and sexual harassment. Deen acknowledged using racial slurs in the past and apologized.
But many of her endorsement, book and TV deals were canceled.
Earlier this year, Deen announced that Najafi Cos., a private investment firm, was investing $75 million to $100 million to help her make a comeback.