Mister or Master, We All Scream

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    I say this every time that the Mister rings his bells: Mrs. Softee is lonely during the torrid nights of a New York summer, wondering for whom her man plays his song. Mister Softee is no damn good, and she’s sure of it.

    Pictured above is a proper “Mister Softee” truck, found on its rounds in Astoria one night, doing exactly what he told the Mrs. that he’d be up to. The mister’s wearing his proper “trade dress” and nothing is as it shouldn’t be (except that I was walking the dog and didn’t have a penny on me, so I couldn’t buy a vanilla cone with sprinkles. Frankly, the dog was more upset than me about this, but there you go.)

    Of late, however, something strange has been going on in Queens – someone has been impersonating the Mister.

    More after the jump

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    Mrs. Softee hears stories. The Mister has new friends, and isn’t sticking to his old routes. He’s serving a different product, and it’s not as good.

    It might be that people are describing the misadventures of Master Softee to her. The Master is single, and unapologetic about playing the field. Still, Mrs. Softee worries that her worst fears may have come true.

    from wikipedia

    Mister Softee is a United States-based ice cream truck franchisor popular in the Northeast. It was founded by William and James Conway (Oct. 30, 1927 – May 28, 2006) in 1956 in Philadelphia. It is one of the largest franchisor of soft ice cream in the United States. It has about 350 franchisees operating 600 trucks in 15 states. The company is headquartered in Runnemede, New Jersey. It is still run by the Conway family; James Conway, Jr. is now President.

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    Mister Softee has new and similarly named competition: Master Softee. Back in early May the Daily News dug into the conflict between the long running “Mister Softee” Ice Cream Truck empire (based in NJ) and the upstart “Master Softee” operation which runs its business out of Long Island City. From the Daily News:

    Mister Softee is anything but soft when it comes to safeguarding his cherished name.

    The New Jersey-based owner of the ubiquitous ice cream trucks is suing a rogue Queens vendor, charging he opened his depot in Long Island City to peddle a knockoff version.

    A mix of about two dozen nearly identical Master Softee and Mister Softee trucks are lined up inside and outside Dimitrios Tsirkos’s 11th St. garage.

    The fledgling business has soured tempers throughout Mister Softee headquarters in South Jersey and its franchisees across Queens and the Bronx.

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    I have been observing the “Master” variant with increasing frequency during recent forays across Queens. So many times, in fact, that I might have to start offering the following statement whenever I hear the bells:

    Mistress Softee is lonely during the torrid nights of a New York summer, wondering for whom her man plays his song. Master Softee is no damn good, and she’s sure of it. Here are some details from the case from Law360:

    “All Triskos did was change the ‘i’ in ‘Mister’ to an ‘a,’ [and] Tsirkos continues to use all of Mister Softee’s trade dress and the Mister Softee truck design and [jingle],” the injunction request said. “Clearly, changing just one letter in the mark and using it in conjunction with the other Mister Softee marks constitutes trademark infringement that continues to cause Mister Softee irreparable harm.”

    Mister Softee says that customers buying ice cream from Tsirkos’ rogue trucks “may believe they are dealing with an authorized Mister Softee franchisee, who is storing and dispensing Mister Softee food products in a sanitary manner … when in fact, they are not.”

    In June a federal judge agreed with Mister Softeee and banned the interloping Master Softee from operating its trucks. But according to the Daily News, Master Softee has ignored the order and is still sending trucks out into the street to lure those looking for a treat with its song.

    Mister Softee Vs. Master Softee Spark Ice Cream Truck Showdown [NY Daily News]
    Mister Softee Aims to Freeze Rogue Master Softee Trucks [Law360]
    Master of Disaster: Mister Softee Spinoff Banned by Judge [NY Daily News]

    Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman lives in Astoria and blogs at Newtown Pentacle.

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