13 November 2006

Sour Pickles

The Times reports that a legal battle is threatening to sink the last great pickler in Manhattan, the famous and well-loved Guss' Pickles of the Lower East Side. And, being the Times, the story gave both sides an even shake, even though it seemed fairly clear that one side of the argument was pretty fishy.

A woman named Patricia Fairhurst took over what most New Yorkers regard as the real Guss', the Lower East Side location, formerly on Essex, now on Orchard. Fairhurst's son worked in the shop for years, and when the owner Tim Baker sold in 2004, she took over, buying the shop, the name and the recipes. (Izzy Guss died back in 1976. His children sold it to the Baker family.)

Seems clear enough, right? Only, it's not, owing to the protests of one Andrew Leibowitz. In 2002, he opened a Guss' Pickles branch in Cedarhurst, Long Island, in a partnership deal with Tim Baker. The Leibowitz family owns United Pickle, a Bronx outift that long provided Guss' with its cucumbers. Andrew continued the business on his own after 2004, when Tim left to care for his ailing mother. Andrew is the one who decided to write Fairhurst, telling her she had no right to the hallowed Guss name. Cease and desist! Fairhurst responded by suing.

So, how do we know that Andrew Leibowitz is a weasel with no leg to stand on? Number one, Tim Baker refutes his claim that the Guss legacy was bequeathed unto him lock, stock and barrel (literally, barrel). Number two, he declined to be interviewed by the Times. Number three, he had a lawyer speak for him, a man named Neil Zipkin who said things like "We're not the bad guys. We're just the true owners." Number four, he has a website that carries messages like “Others claim to be Guss’ Pickles or affiliated with Guss Pickles, but that is not true!” And number five: he thinks the true Guss' Pickles should be located in CEDARHURST!!

I'll keep buying the gerkins on Orchard Street.

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