Sub Wars: Local sandwich shop in the midst of battle over restaurant identity

Published by adviser, Author: Kevin Squires - Rocket Contributor, Date: April 4, 2013
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Bob’s Sub has been “a college town favorite since 1973.” Often, college students enjoy lunch together, with the scent of hoagies in the air, and an ever familiar request for a favorite “Bob’s sub” –  it all sounds a familiar occurrence for students at Slippery Rock University.

But this is not the Bob’s Subs that so many people in Slippery Rock know and love. A Bob’s Sub, of no affiliation with the location in Slippery Rock, opened in Indiana, Pa., followed by one in Pittsburgh. These stores use a similar name, slogan, and even feature images of the Slippery Rock location inside the stores. The shops have been stirring up trouble for the Slippery Rock shop since 2011.

According to a status posted July 28, 2011 on Slippery Rock’s Bob’s Sub & Sandwich Shop’s Facebook page, “It has come to our attention that there is a Bob’s Sub opening in Indiana PA. They have even registered a website claiming, ‘Since 1973… a college town favorite.’” The status warned, “this location is not affiliated with ours and will soon be issued a cease and desist notice.”

Cindy Marlowe, owner and operator of the Slippery Rock location, explained, “Identity theft is what they call it…he has nothing to do with us.” Marlowe started working at Bob’s in 1975 and became its full owner in 1989. She manages the store with the help of her sister Linda Wigton, and nephew, Joseph Wigton who are both proud Slippery Rock University alumni.

The cease and desist notice was only the beginning. Marlowe attempted to sue Mark Fleck,

 

Bob’s Sub has been “a college town favorite since 1973.” Often, college students enjoy lunch together, with the scent of hoagies in the air, and an ever familiar request for a favorite “Bob’s sub” –  it all sounds a familiar occurrence for students at Slippery Rock University.

But this is not the Bob’s Subs that so many people in Slippery Rock know and love. A Bob’s Sub, of no affiliation with the location in Slippery Rock, opened in Indiana, Pa., followed by one in Pittsburgh. These stores use a similar name, slogan, and even feature images of the Slippery Rock location inside the stores. The shops have been stirring up trouble for the Slippery Rock shop since 2011.

According to a status posted July 28, 2011 on Slippery Rock’s Bob’s Sub & Sandwich Shop’s Facebook page, “It has come to our attention that there is a Bob’s Sub opening in Indiana PA. They have even registered a website claiming, ‘Since 1973… a college town favorite.’” The status warned, “this location is not affiliated with ours and will soon be issued a cease and desist notice.”

Cindy Marlowe, owner and operator of the Slippery Rock location, explained, “Identity theft is what they call it…he has nothing to do with us.” Marlowe started working at Bob’s in 1975 and became its full owner in 1989. She manages the store with the help of her sister Linda Wigton, and nephew, Joseph Wigton who are both proud Slippery Rock University alumni.

The cease and desist notice was only the beginning. Marlowe attempted to sue Mark Fleck, owner of Bob’s Sub Inc. in Indiana, in 2011 to prevent him from opening the store.

Marlowe was not victorious in the lawsuit; Fleck opened another store in Pittsburgh, and has a third location coming soon in New Kensington, according to his website.

A Facebook update posted in September of 2011 by the Slippery Rock shop read, “The initial hearing has concluded that calling another shop Bob’s Sub is not misleading since we are Bob’s Sub and sandwich shop. Obviously, no one calls us by the shortened name or knows us that way. The phrase college town favorite is allowed for a new business. Further, ‘since 1973’ was allowed after being sold from a shop operating in its present state since 1991.”

The name and slogan are not trademarked, but for Marlowe, it’s more about the reputation. “I can’t stop him from using the name, but I want to stop the association.” Marlowe explains, referencing the year mentioned in the slogan and a picture of Marlowe’s locations that is displayed in Fleck’s stores. “It might say ‘Bob’s,’ but it’s my reputation.” Marlowe claims.

A third member of the story comes in as Ron Eustice, owner of a second Bob’s Sub and Sandwich Shop in Clarion and the one in Brookville. Eustice gave permission to Fleck to open the stores with the name.

In summary, Marlowe is unhappy with Fleck for stealing her reputation which Fleck allegedly got from Eustice… so who is Bob and where is he?

The Bob of “Bob’s Sub and Sandwich Shop” is Bob Woolston. Woolston founded a shop in western New York then moved on to Western Pennsylvania where the Slippery Rock shop opened in 1973, the first “Bob’s,” followed by locations in Edinboro, Bloomsburg and Clarion.

Woolston is now retired, living in Florida, and very ill. He sold the Slippery Rock shop to Marlowe and the Clarion shop to Eustice. The locations in Edinboro and Bloomsburg closed.

“If he [Bob Woolston] were healthy he’d fight too!” Marlowe says, explaining that when Eustice came to possess the Clarion shop from Woolston he was given a five year window to expand. That window has long passed.

For Marlowe, the battle continues. She plans to continue the fight to keep the reputation of the restaurant she owns as her own, and wants everyone to know that Fleck is “defrauding the public.” She adds that even though the name may claim differently, a sub at one of Fleck’s stores is “not a Bob’s Sub.”

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