Shake Shoppe sees surge of support

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 25, 2021

In the week following the news that their business was being sued in federal court, the owners of Ironton’s Shake Shoppe said they are thankful for the surge of support they have received from the community.

Maddie Cogan and Robby Brown, owners of the restaurant, located at 1625 Liberty Ave. in Ironton, under Shake Shoppe Ironton LLC, said last Friday that they were being sued by Shake Shoppe LLC, the company of the Gallipolis Shake Shoppe, which has been owned by three generations of the Snedaker family since the 1950s.

According to Brown, 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.

Of the remaining three locations, only the Gallipolis is run by the same family who originally owned it.

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 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.

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

The name and imagery have been used by the Ironton location since the 1950s, under its originally owners, the Salisbury family, then two successors, before Cogan and Brown bought the location in 2019.

Since the news broke, Brown said they have seen an increase in traffic to the store and messages of support from the community.

“We knew our community supported our Shake Shoppe, and the outpouring has been crazy, more than we imagined,” he said.

He said in addition to customers coming in, they have received many calls as well.

“So many have told us to keep fighting,” he said.

He said one group drove all the way from Morehead, Kentucky.

“They saw the story and said they wanted to come support our business,” Brown said.

Cogan said they have been “overrun with positive support.”

She said one thing that has meant a lot to her are those who come by to share stories of how the business has been a longtime tradition in their families.

“People have stopped by our dining room and told us how, years ago, they would come with their grandparents and now they are taking their grandchildren,” Cogan said.

They also saw support from other businesses in Lawrence County, with Kouns Kreative Designs and Bruce’s Custom Carts teaming up to sponsor a “buy one get free” sale on Thursday.

The location also got a cheer from the crowd last weekend at the Ironton River Run, when race organizer Amanda Cleary read the list of sponsors of the event and stressed the “IRONTON Shake Shoppe.”

Brown said they have also heard from many in the Gallipolis area, who have expressed solidarity with them.

“You would assume they first support the business in Gallipolis, but they tell us they don’t agree with what is happening,” Brown said.

The initial story on the lawsuit garnered a large audience on The Ironton Tribune’s Facebook page, with nearly a half million views within a week.

Comments on the story were overwhelmingly in favor of the Ironton location. And support extended further on social media, with badges and banners supporting the shop in wide use, and memes poking fun of the situation circulating.

A T-Shirt design, available for pre-order from Make It Yours, of Ironton, is one of the many items of support circulating on social media surrounding the Shake Shoppe lawsuit. (Facebook photo)

Also circulating on line was a T-shirt reading, “Ironton — better football, better milkshakes,” offered by Make It Yours, a spirit clothing company located in the Spare Time building on Third Street.

Owner Sarah Humphreys said she had 75 preorders on the shirts “almost immediately” and is doing another order to meet demand.

Humphreys, who is a teacher at Ironton schools, said seniors at the high school had breakfast at the Ironton Shake Shoppe when the school year began.

“(Cogan) made gift bags for all the seniors,” Humphreys said. “They have been really great at supporting the school and community and I think we need to support them.”

Humphreys said she also received a call from Gallipolis ordering one of the shirts.

“She said her friends up there will definitely be getting in touch to order some,” she said. “There are some in their community who are shaken up as well.”

Brown said the story has been of interest to many in the region, as the Shake Shoppe restaurants have a long history in southern Ohio.

“And, our hope is, with all the attention it has received, something is done faster,” Brown said.

Calls to the Gallipolis restaurant were not returned, while a local TV station, picking up the story on Wednesday, was told the owners would not make a comment outside of court.

The Gallipolis owners have asked for a jury trial, which is set for May 2023.