Sweetie Pies Files Motion Over Settlement Issues
St. Louis, MO/March 4, 2017 (STLRestaurant.News) – A legal battle between mother and son that has been the subject of the courts and reality TV has taken another turn. Sweetie Pie’s founder Robbie Montgomery first opened her soul food restaurant in 1996. Since then she and son Tim Norman have built the business into a St. Louis classic and a national brand. The restaurant became famous in 2011 when it became the subject and setting for a reality television show on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN television network. As OWN describes it, “Welcome to Sweetie Pies follows the loud, loving and musical Montgomery family as they struggle with the demands of expanding their family-owned St. Louis business.” That has included the legal battle between mother and son.
After outgrowing the original location at 9841 West Florissant in Dellwood, Sweetie Pie’s opened two new locations: Sweetie Pie’s The Upper Crust at 3643 Delmar Blvd. in Grand Center, and Sweetie Pie’s at the Mangrove at 4270 Manchester Ave. in the Grove District. The original Dellwood location reopened in May 2016 after being closed for more than three years. Several weeks later, in July, Sweetie Pie’s at the Mangrove on Manchester closed (header picture).
That’s also about the time Montgomery filed a lawsuit accusing her son of taking money from the accounts of the Mangrove restaurant and using it to open restaurants in Berkeley, Florissant and North Hollywood, California. The suit also accused Norman of violating Sweetie Pie’s trademarks in naming the restaurants “TJ’s Sweetie Pie’s Noho” (North Hollywood, California), “TJ’s Sweetie Pie’s Airport” (Berkeley) and “Sweetie Pie’s Kitchen” (Florissant). Montgomery claims her son used the trademarked Sweetie Pie’s name without her permission.
On Friday, March 3, 2017, an attorney for Montgomery filed a motion in her trademark-infringement suit that outlines a potential settlement agreement she had reached with her son. It also alleges that he’s breached that agreement. The motion asks the court to enforce the settlement agreement Montgomery’s attorney says the two sides reached Dec. 31, 2016. In a supporting memorandum filed with the motion, Montgomery’s attorney argues that Norman should be required to abide by the agreement since it was his attorneys who had pushed for settlement in December. The memorandum states that as a condition of that December agreement, Norman would close the restaurants he’d opened in St. Louis, and his Los Angeles restaurants would become licensees of Sweetie Pie’s, paying five-percent of gross sales for use of the name. It also stipulated that Norman would not open any new restaurants using the Sweetie Pie’s name.
Norman has made no secret of his desire to see Sweetie Pie’s soul food restaurants franchised across the nation. He says he opened his TJ’s Sweetie Pie’s locations “to test his theory.” Since that December settlement was reached, his St. Louis area locations have closed. The North Hollywood restaurant and two in Inglewood, Calif. remain open. Norman has also opened a new Sweetie Pies in Houston, despite the settlement agreement. On February 26th Norman even tweeted about the last round of hirings before the official grand opening of the new Sweetie Pies at 6356 Richmond in Houston.
It’s not clear if or when a judge might rule on the motion. It’s also unclear if the parties will return to the negotiating table. In November Montgomery had told Ebony Magazine that the lawsuit is just business. Of her son she said, “I still love him, but we don’t agree on business.” Despite an attempt at settlement, it seems that disagreement is going to linger at least for the time being.