Ironton Shake Shoppe sued by Gallipolis location

Published 6:36 pm Friday, September 17, 2021

By HEATH HARRISON and MARK SHAFFER

Accused of trademark infringement on name, imagery

The Shake Shoppe in Ironton is shocked to find themselves in the center of a federal lawsuit.

The ice cream place has been a fixture in Ironton for some 65 years and has been owned by a number of business people.

It was most recently purchased by Robby Brown and Maddie Cogan in 2019.

They are now being sued for trademark infringement by the owners of the Gallipolis Shake Shoppe, which has been owned by three generations of the Snedaker family since the 1950s.

In the suit, filed in the United States District Court Southern District Of Ohio, the owners of the Gallipolis store, referred to as Shake Shoppe LLC, is suing the Ironton store, known as Shake Shoppe Ironton LLC, citing trademark infringement and unfair competition.

Shake Shoppe LLC is asking that Shake Shoppe Ironton LLC stop using the name and associated symbols and that they pay for damages.

“We got a cease and desist,” Brown said. “They’re suing for our profits since 2019.”

The origins of the suit date back to beginning of the restaurant.

Brown said he was told by Frances Salisbury, who originally owned the business with her husband, Wendell, that, in the 1950s, six Dairy Queens in southern Ohio, located in Ironton, Gallipolis, New Boston, Jackson, Logan and Portsmouth, saw the patent on their soft serve machine with the company expire.

As a result, the six businesses decided to rebrand as the Shake Shoppe, forming a business agreement. They used the same signage, but were individually owned and had their own sauce recipes for hot dogs, Brown said.

The Gallipolis location is still run by the same family who originally owned it, the Snedakers, he said.

According to the Gallipolis location’s Facebook page, that restaurant was founded by Frank and Marge Snedaker and has operated since the 1950s, now under its third generation of the family. Frank Snedaker, who owned the location until 1983, died in 2007 and Marge Snedaker died in January 2020.

Brown and Cogan purchased the Ironton location from the Hamlin family. It was previously owned by the Castle family, who purchased it from the Salisburys.

In the suit, Shake Shoppe LLC cited items like “That Old Fashioned Goodness,” “Keystone Cop Drinking Milkshake,” “Shake Shoppe in old English letters,” “Man and woman riding bicycle built for two and are drinking milk shakes,” and a clown patting its belly with the words “Stuftshirt,” which they said were were drawn by hand by original owner Marge Snedaker and used as early as 1956. Shake Shoppe LLC had those items trademarked with the state and federal government. The logos and designs were made into digital renderings and have been used by Shake Shoppe LLC since at least 2015 on social media sites and to make clothing items.

Sharke Shoppe Ironton LLC contests many of these details.

The use of the logos on social media, on the Ironton shop and on T-shirts is the issue in the suit.

The suit said the trademarks “were at one point non-exclusively licensed to an entity to be utilized in conjunction with offering restaurant services at a restaurant in Ironton, Ohio, the Defendant does not have and has never had a license to utilize the Plaintiff’s SHAKE SHOPPE Trademarks” on social media, in advertising or on clothing. The suit said that the Ironton shop has been asked not to use those trademarked items and that by continuing to use those items, the Ironton shop is in direct competition with the Gallipolis shop and that business has been diverted away from the Gallipolis store and caused damage because of consumer confusion, deception and mistake in the marketplace and harmed the business reputation of the Gallipolis store.

Brown said, in his conversations with previous owners, the Ironton location never operated under a licensing agreement from Gallipolis.

The owners of the Gallipolis store have asked for a jury trial and that they be awarded damages, that the Ironton store destroy all products, videos and advertisements with the trademarked items and that the Ironton store cease to use any of the trademarked items in the future.

Brown and Cogan said they have consulted an attorney on the matter.

“I find it absurd that the Shake Shoppe brand, with its name, logo and icons, has existed in the city of Ironton since the 1950s, and now, over 60 years later, the next generation of owners in Gallipolis somehow see themselves as having exclusivity,” he said. “We were happy to pick up and continue this tradition in our Ironton community and, unfortunately, we would have never anticipated this current situation.”

Cogan said they want to preserve the identity of the location, which has been in Ironton since the 1950s, and hope to avoid a name and branding change.

“It’s a tradition and Ironton loves tradition,” she said.

Brown added that if any families in Ironton have photos of their family at the Shake Shoppe of Ironton in the 1950 and 1960s, “we’d love to see those.”

Brown and Cogan said they also want to assure their more than 30 employees that they are not closing and have no plans to do so.

“Our restaurant is not going anywhere,” Brown said.

Calls to the Shake Shoppe owners in Gallipolis were not returned by press time.