Raleigh nursery gets backlash from catalog cover
Posted February 23, 2012
Updated February 24, 2012
Raleigh, N.C. — The owner of a Raleigh nursery said he has gotten hundreds of complaints because of a satirical catalog cover.
The artwork, which is also featured on the Plant Delights website, has company owner Tony Avent in the cross-hairs of Penn State University alums.
Avent said the cover is a satire on current events, like GOP presidential candidates and the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State. Avent said they decided this year to go with a "Wizard of Oz" theme.
"Michelle Bachmann became Dorothy. Joe Paterno, the straw man or scarecrow, and, of course, the Cowardly Lion, Sandusky," Avent said.
Peggy Nickola is among hundreds of people connected to Penn State who were not amused by the artwork. Her husband and son graduated from the school.
"We as Penn State fans feel like we've been through enough this fall and winter," Nickola said. "We're seeing supposedly an advertisement for pretty plants that is exploiting little children. That was very hurtful to us."
Avent and his employees have been spending time defending the artwork, which he said is designed to promote critical thinking.
"Our employees are certainly not enjoying it. We're trying to keep them employed and keep them in a job, and all they do is get these bizarre calls and emails all day," he said.
Avent admits he has taken down more than 300 negative comments, many of them from Penn State alums, from the nursery's Facebook page.
"I think he made a mistake, and I think when people make a mistake, they should apologize," Nickola said.
Avent said he stands by the artwork.
"That's what we do. That's what we've done for years," he said.
The catalog was sent out in December, but Penn State alums only recently became aware of it.
Avent says he is preparing for an open house and gearing up for a busy time of year. He's not sure how the criticism will affect his business moving forward.