By Fred Hiers
Published: Tuesday, October 5, 2010 at 12:24 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, October 5, 2010 at 10:40 p.m.
Inside the Hercules Fence company office, a bulletin board is covered with yellowed newspaper clippings from every time the business has drawn attention — often from out-of-town press.
Other controversial signs at Hercules Fence Co.:
*2005: During Violence Awareness Week: "Take your ex-wife out. One bullet oughta do it."
*2007: "What has four wheels and flies? A dead cripple in a wheelchair." Advocates for the disabled picketed outside the business. The principal at Hillcrest School, which works with disabled students, expressed dismay; the company had done fence work at the school.
The company’s manager, Mike Garza, said the business is eager to get some fresh clippings.
The 58-year-old business’s claim to notoriety has little to do with fences, but rather the messages it posts on a roadside sign at its 4660 SE Maricamp Road location.
Now comes the latest offering. During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, while many businesses are awash in pink ribbons and encouraging slogans, Hercules Fence has taken the opposite tack. The company posted on its sign a message to women that a breast inspection site is 20 feet ahead, and encourages them to display their breasts as they pass by.
The Star-Banner has received complaints about the sign.
Garza said the owner decides each Friday to post a message that stays up for the week, complaints or not.
During the past few years those messages have included jokes about dead handicapped people — just a short distance from a school that serves handicapped children; jokes about killing ex-wives during Domestic Violence Awareness Month; and a notation about President Barack Obama moving into the White House from the ghetto.
“The sign increases business; it doesn’t hurt it,” Garza said Tuesday as he stood near the sign.
State records list the building owner as Hercules Fence Co. Inc. Its president is Paul Buchkovich.
He did not return requests for an interview, so it’s unknown whether the entreaty for women to bare their breasts was timed to coincide with Breast Cancer Awareness month.
However, when a reporter visited the store on Tuesday, a store employee working atop the roof shouted down this sarcastic message about the sign: “How could someone not support Breast Cancer Awareness Month?”
Garza said he got an early indication the message might offend people. “My girlfriend didn’t like the sign much, either,” he said.
Garza said the store occasionally gets telephone calls objecting to messages on the sign, but only once has anyone threatened not do business with Hercules.
He said Hercules Fence does mostly commercial business and customers typically look for the best fencing at the lowest price, which his company provides regardless of what is on the sign.
Stacy Wachsmuph, 32, wants customers to reconsider. She is a local volunteer fundraiser for Lee National Denim Day, an event that generates money and support for breast cancer awareness.
Wachsmuph said Hercules Fence crossed the line this time. “I’ve enjoyed reading their signs and jokes since I was a kid, but this is too far. Instead of breast cancer awareness, they’re making a joke about it,” she said.
“This is the first time I’ve felt truly offended.”
Wachsmuph said there is a history of breast cancer in her family.
The sign posting would be the last thing a woman would want to read after leaving her doctor’s office with news she had the disease.
“I would recommend boycotting them for this,” she said. “This is not acceptable.”
Cara Newby, executive director of the American Cancer Society’s Marion County unit, said her group has not taken a position on the sign.
Angie DeNoia, a breast cancer survivor who lives in Ocala, said she hopes the store’s owner never has an encounter with cancer.
“Let’s hope your daughter will never be told she has breast cancer, or cancer anywhere on her body,” DeNoia said. “You have cancer and let’s see if you laugh about it.”
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