Joe Fox insists that when he changed the name of one of his signature sandwiches to "The Cease-and-Desist," he was only doing what a competitor's attorney demanded.
But as a result, the owner of Carolina Dog and Deli on Ribaut Road says he is serving more sandwiches ... with a side of Facebook commenting.
Fox's legal kerfuffle started with a call from the president of Groucho's Deli, a regional chain that recently opened a restaurant on Lady's Island. He objected to the name of a Carolina Dog and Deli sandwich called "The Groucho," which Fox says he has served for years without incident.
So Fox relented.
By renaming the sandwich "The Grouchy."
However, that wasn't enough to satisfy Groucho's representatives, and Fox got a letter from an attorney on behalf of the business.
So, he considered "Harpo Marx's Brother," among other names, but a customer suggested the "Cease-and-Desist," a reference to the attorney's letter. On Monday, the first day of the name change, it was one of the best-selling sandwiches at the deli, Fox said.
"What are they going to do to me?" Fox said. "I changed the name like they asked me to."
Fox posted the news to his restaurant's Facebook page. As of Wednesday evening, it had received 23 comments.
Scrolling through them earlier in the week, Fox chuckled at customers' reactions. Some were lighthearted -- "Lol! Love it! I will have to come get one this week." Others took issue with the request to change the name -- "You have got to be kidding! Talk about petty. Groucho will get NO business from me or mine."
"I believe I stirred up a bunch of (people) today," Fox said.
Groucho's Deli is a franchise with 28 locations across the Southeast.
"That name is our brand, which is very important to us, and over the years we have done our best to protect it," company president Bruce Miller said in a prepared statement. "We have no personal animosity toward the good people at Carolina Dog and Deli, but we cannot allow other restaurants to trade on the goodwill that we have built up over 70-plus years."
Miller's grandfather founded the restaurant in 1941 in Columbia. He added that the matter seems to be resolved by Fox's name change.
According to the letter sent to Fox, the chain has used the name for more than 50 years and has trademarked "Groucho's."
Fox said he had been serving The Groucho for more than a decade at Carolina Dog and Deli and at a previous restaurant. The name pays homage to Groucho's and its "STP Dipper," which Fox said was his favorite sandwich on the chain's menu. Both have turkey, roast beef, cheese, sauce and bacon.
But, Fox said, the sandwiches aren't the same. His sandwich uses different cheese and his homemade sauce, and customers have a choice of six types of bread, he says.
Local Groucho's franchise owner Patrick Ragsdale said he brought the deli to Lady's Island because he loves the brand and the area.
"At the end of the day, I am no different than Mr. Fox or any other small-business owner," he said. "I am a Beaufort local that has a dream and am working hard to fulfill it."
Fox said he doesn't want a legal fight and wishes Ragsdale and the Lady's Island Groucho's well. He doesn't see the two delis as direct competitors, because Fox caters primarily to a work lunch crowd and doesn't believe most Beaufort workers have time to drive to Lady's Island for lunch, or vice versa.
"I'm just a happy guy selling sandwiches, and I just want to sell more and sit here and be happy," he said.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.