The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Business

March 20, 2013

Would a ‘Bob’s’ sub by another name taste as good?

SLIPPERY ROCK — A dispute between two restaurant owners is picking up steam again with one of them considering further legal action and the other speaking out against the situation, which he considers a non-issue.

Cindy Marlowe, who owns Bob’s Sub and Sandwich Shop LLC in Slippery Rock, in 2011 sued Mark Fleck, owner of Bob’s Sub Inc. in Indiana, Pa., and Pittsburgh, to keep him from opening a restaurant she claims he ripped off from the original Bob’s, opened by Bob Woolston in 1973.

“He has no right to do that. He’s defrauding the public,” Marlowe said Thursday afternoon while taking a break in the downtown eatery at 252 S. Main St.

Fleck, contacted by phone later Thursday, strongly disagrees and pointed out that the lawsuit was dismissed by Indiana County Common Pleas Court President Judge William J. Martin.

Court paperwork shows the lawsuit was dismissed because Marlowe failed to prove Fleck would cause irreparable harm by opening a restaurant under a similar name, which she had not trademarked.

“We didn’t steal anything,” Fleck said.

He made an “expensive agreement” with Ron Eustice to expand the restaurant; Eustice is the current owner of the Bob’s Sub and Sandwich Shop location in Clarion, which Eustice bought from Woolston.

But Marlowe said she’s planning to file another lawsuit to get Fleck to stop marketing his restaurants as being part of the original, dating back to 1973; he has similar menu offerings and a photo of the Slippery Rock shop that hangs in his Indiana location.

“You can’t buy someone’s history,” she said. “It’s misleading.”

Marlowe started working for Woolston in 1975, bought half the business in the early 1980s and became sole owner of the Slippery Rock shop in 1989.

Eustice opened a third shop in Brookville, and Woolston has since retired to Florida and is in poor health, she said.

Fleck in 2011 offered to buy the shop from Marlowe, who turned him down. She had never heard of him until then.

“All I want him to do is take my picture out of his restaurant and say he has nothing to do with us,” Marlowe said of where things stand now.

“I don’t know what her problem is,” Fleck said of her comments. “The reputation came from Bob.”

She’s not the original owner and his deal with Eustice is similar to the one she made with Woolston, Fleck said.

Fleck also said he created the restaurant’s tagline, “a college town favorite,” despite Marlowe’s claims that the phrase is original to the restaurant’s 1973 opening.

The dismissed lawsuit says Marlowe doesn’t have a right to exclusive use of “Bob’s Sub” or the phrases “since 1973” and “a college town favorite.”

“Nobody cares,” Fleck said when asked if he’s gotten any customer feedback about the dispute; he’s planning to open a third location soon in New Kensington.

Marlowe said her customers are supporting her reputation, evidenced by comments on the restaurant’s Facebook page.

“I’m not gonna back down,” she said.

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