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Sympathy Food irks florists
Caroline funeral home director finds himself in thorny situation with florists after starting new business.

 Funeral home owner David Storke's new business, which lets people send food to grieving families, has run afoul of the floral industry.
ROBERT A. MARTIN/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
Visit the Photo Place
Date published: 8/11/2011

BY PORTSIA SMITH

Funeral home owner David Storke was born in the late 1960s, so he knows a little bit about flower power.

But the businessman and Bowling Green mayor learned more about it when he recently ran afoul of the floral industry.

In addition to Storke Funeral Home, Storke runs sympathyfood .com, a company he launched in 2008 that allows people to send food to those who are ill, grieving or have lost a loved one.

The website's slogan, "a comforting alternative to flowers," put Storke in a thorny situation with the Society of American Florists. The Alexandria-based trade association sent an email earlier this year asking him to reconsider his marketing approach.

"SAF realizes your need to promote your product but supports respected principles that suggest doing so on your own merits rather than disparaging another product," wrote Jenny Scala, marketing director for the association, which represents more than 10,000 florists, wholesalers and flower growers nationwide.

Storke said he was floored by the email.

"When I first started reading it, I thought I was getting sued," he said. "It came across wrong to me.

"It was mean, kind of like a bully. I was really shocked that something as big as the flower industry would say something like that."

According to the SAF website, the U.S. flower industry had $35.2 billion in sales last year, a $2.7 billion increase compared with 2009. Its consumer trend data shows that only 5 percent of flower-giving is for sympathy or memorial purposes.

"So I'm not hurting them that bad," Storke said.

He did suggest that the rising number of cremations in this country may put a dent in their sales because, "if there's no burial, there's no flower spread."

In a phone interview last week, Scala said she vaguely remembered the email that was sent to Storke and said the association routinely contacts companies that "choose to put down flowers as gifts."

"We do contact companies and ask them to promote their own product without saying something negative about flowers," Scala said. "We do hear back from companies saying that they didn't realize they were doing something negative and they take out those references."

The association's website lists 39 companies Scala has contacted about their "harmful remarks," including national chains. Of those, 23 did not respond.


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