Confederate cake leads to runaround

By Cosby Woodruff

Connie Ansley knows that finding Confederate-themed merchandise is getting tougher, but she thinks what happened over the weekend just takes the cake.

Ansley, a member of the Alabama United Daughters of the Confederacy, wanted a cake for the opening of a museum at the Confederate Memorial Park. She drove all over her hometown, Huntsville, looking for one.

She said Costco and Wal-Mart refused to decorate a cake with the Confederate battle flag. So Ansley went to a Publix Grocery, where an employee agreed to make the cake.

When Ansley returned to pick it up, she said she was told by a manager that the bakery never again would make such a cake, citing the Confederate flag decoration as the reason.

But Publix spokeswoman Brenda Reid said her chain has no policy against Confederate imagery. In fact, the battle flag is on an approved list of cake decorations.

"We don’t have a position on the Confederate flag," Reid said. "Our policy has more to do with protected images" — like the image of Martin Luther King, which often is requested.

Any Publix bakery associate refusing to decorate a cake with the Confederate battle flag would be in violation of company policy, Reid said.

"It is one of the designs in our book, so we would expect the associate to fill it," she said.

Ansley wanted more than the battle flag. She requested a custom design of the battle flag and another Confederate image. She was pleased with the results.

"It was beautiful," she said of the cake. "It turned out great."

But she left the store very unhappy with the service.

"They said they would never make that cake again," Ansley said.

She said Publix officials alternately told her the decoration was against company policy, and that they had been instructed by the state government not to sell Confederate-themed cakes.

Reid said that no such policy exists.

"It does not mean they are racist," Reid said. "It is all about history more so than hate."

Ansley said the battle flag, which is a symbol used by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, was the military standard for Confederate troops, not a political symbol.

"That battle flag never flew over any building," she said.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Karen Burk said nothing in her company’s policy would prohibit Confederate symbols, just copyrighted items.

"Our policy is not to put anything on a cake that is illegal," she said. Even if one bakery associate was offended by Confederate images, Burk said another associate could fill the order.

"Customer satisfaction is our No. 1 priority," she said.

For Ansley, it’s just the latest example of a trend against Confederate-themed items at retailers.

"Have you noticed how hard it is getting to find the Dixie shirts in stores?" she said.

Burk said Wal-Mart does not have any policy against Confederate merchandise.

"We do sell a toy car, the General Lee, from the Dukes of Hazard," she said. That car, she noted, has a large Confederate battle flag.

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