31 July 2009

No LES, No Guss

Earlier I weighed in as not completely hating Guss' Pickles' announced move from the Lower East Side to Brooklyn.

I did not know all the fact at this point. Let me adjust my opinion.

I hate this.

Why? Because, when Guss' Pickles—a landmark for a century—leaves Manhattan, it will be forced by law to leave its name behind. It will became Someone's Pickles, Whoever's Pickles, anything but Guss' Pickles.

This is all due to the convoluted and ridiculous lawsuit that has dogged the Guss' legacy for the last few years, in which two parties—Guss' Pickles owner Pat Fairhurst and father and son Steve and Andrew Leibowitz of United Pickles—have both laid claim to the famous name.

Writes the Daily News:

[Keeping the name] just wouldn't be kosher under a 2007 settlement between Fairhurst and Steve and Andrew Leibowitz, a father and son duo who also laid claim to the Guss' Pickles name.

Both pickle peddlers insisted they had the true connection to Isidor Guss, the Polish immigrant who sold pickles from a pushcart in the lower East Side and later opened up the shop.

Fairhurst took over the institution from Harold Baker, who had purchased it from Guss' family after the patriarch's death.

But the Leibowitzes, who run United Pickle in the Bronx, also had a long relationship with the store and bought the rights to the name. Son Andrew Leibowitz's company, Crossing Delancey Pickle Enterprises, opened a Guss' Pickle shop in Cedarhurst in 2001.

Fairhurst sued him in 2006, then Andrew Leibowitz countersued. A 2007 settlement allowed Fairhurst to use the name only at her Orchard St. location.

That decision left a bad taste in Fairhurst's mouth, and she has nothing but sour words about it to this day.

"We have a following, they don't," she says simply.

The Leibowitz's hope the move will bring an end to the sticky pickle predicament at long last.

"I wish her all the luck in the world in her new location - as long as she doesn't use our name," said Steve Leibowitz.

That such a sweet and simple thing as a timeless Lower East Side pickle dealer should be ruined through greed and litigation is unforgivable.

I applaud the Curbed network for openly professing a boycott of United Pickles. I join them. Their claim may be tongue-in-cheek. Mine is serious. I don't know why I would ever go to Cedarhurst, but if I do, I'll spit in the Liebowitz's pickle barrels. The family has brine on its hands.

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