In June, Bill and Barbara Harris opened Silver Spoon Bakery and Cafe in Southlake.
"I'm 81 years old, my wife's 78," Harris said. "We're not dead yet, and we're just trying to stay active."
Silver Spoon is a lunch spot whose every detail, from the cutesy, pink-striped walls to the salad-heavy menu, is meant to appeal to the type of woman who looks back fondly to times when well-heeled ladies would gather each afternoon for tea.
The problem is that almost every one of those details, down to the framed pictures on the wall, the pink awning out front, even the presentation of its turkey salad, are eerily similar to those found in Celebrity Cafe & Bakery. Pretty much identical, in fact.
The owners of Dallas-based Celebrity are not amused and filed a federal lawsuit on Friday claiming that Silver Spoon is a "purposeful knock-off of the Celebrity Cafe & Bakery concept and trade dress," an attempt cash in on the restaurant's popularity as a purveyor of "traditional Texas ladies' luncheon fare."
The twist is that the Harrises were the ones who established Celebrity Cafe in 1989 and ran it for the better part of two decades. It wasn't until late 2006 that they sold the company to Investar, an Irving-based private equity and venture capital firm invested heavily in Hispanic-oriented businesses. The contract included a three-year noncompete clause that expired in January 2010.
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With the noncompete clause behind them, the couple set to work establishing the restaurant in Southlake, basing it off the concept they had established more than 20 years before. They thought that was okay. Investar did not, asserting that the sale of the restaurant included not just the name and physical restaurants, but also the decor, the uniforms, and the menu. It says so right in the asset purchase agreement, the suit claims which stated that the purchase included "distinctive exterior and interior design, decor, color scheme and trade dress; all service marks trademarks, trade names, logos, and other symbols or marks used to promote the System; and all recipes, including special recipes, menu items and menus."
"They're full of bull," Harris said. "What they've done they lost a whole lot of money and changed the entire concept."
And now Investar, which used to be based in Mexico, has lowered itself to picking on an octogenarian couple trying to make an honest living in Southlake, Harris says.
"They're trying to put two little old white people-- gringos-- out of business."