First the Cheesesteak Wars. Now the Philly Soft Pretzel Wars.

Plus, we talk to a man inside the Borgata's continuing technological nightmare.

A Philadelphia Eagles fan enjoying a soft pretzel in Philadelphia, where two soft pretzel companies are about to go at it in court

A Philadelphia Eagles fan enjoying a soft pretzel in Philadelphia, where two soft pretzel companies are about to go at it in court (Getty Images)

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First the Cheesesteak Wars. Now the Philly Soft Pretzel Wars.

The last couple of weeks have been dizzying here at Philly Mag thanks to some pretty juicy cheesesteak drama between two cheesesteak shops both calling themselves Jim’s. And just when we thought we could turn our attention to, you know, more frivolous news, we’ve discovered that there’s a Philadelphia soft pretzel war afoot.

Pretzelworks has been around, in one form or another, since the 1960s. What started out as a pretzel cart in the city eventually became the manufacturer and distributor of frozen soft pretzels, some meant to be baked in a store, while others are simply fully cooked thaw-and-serve products. You can’t walk in and buy a freshly made soft pretzel with mustard. Pretzelworks, now owned and operated by Michael Naselsky, the son of the guy who started it, is located on Oxford Avenue in Northeast Philly.

Less than seven miles away, as the Philly pigeon flies, in the Point Breeze section of the city, sits Pretzel Workz. Sounds the same, right? But note the differences: the space between the words and the substitution of a “z” for the “s.” Pretzel Workz appears to have been incorporated in 2018.

Pretzel Workz is a much different type of operation from its neighbor to the north. At Pretzel Workz, owner Shakirah Gray serves items like jerk chicken-and-shrimp burgers on pretzel buns. Want chicken parm pasta in a pretzel bowl? You can get that. Gray’s creations have made their way to 6 ABC on two occasions. Her product line and business type are completely different than those of Pretzelworks.

Well, Naselsky just filed a federal lawsuit against Pretzel Workz alleging that Gray is misleading potential Pretzelworks customers and unfairly competing with his company by having a name that is confusingly similar in the same general geographic area.

The complaint alleges that on three occasions earlier this year, companies scheduled to pick up products from Pretzelworks somehow wound up at the Point Breeze store. Naselsky also claims that at least two customers who wanted to contact his company accidentally contacted Pretzel Workz instead, apparently thanks to this name confusion.

According to the lawsuit, lawyers for Pretzelworks sent Gray a cease-and-desist letter on July 31st. One month later, Naselsky says, he reached Gray by phone at her store. As alleged in the suit, “Ms. Gray denied having received the cease-and-desist Letter, stated that she did not care about any such confusion, advised Mr. Naselsky that she had recorded the conversation, and then hung up the phone.”

So Naselsky’s lawyers also threw in the accusation that Gray violated Pennsylvania’s Wiretap and Electronic Surveillance Control Act by allegedly recording him without his permission.

When reached by phone on Wednesday, Gray said she didn’t actually record the call. “I wish I had,” she said, going on to explain that she didn’t appreciate Naselsky’s language and tone on the phone. She declined to comment further.

If you’re wondering who owns the current trademark rights to Pretzelworks or Pretzel Workz, the answer appears to be nobody, according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s database. But cases like this can be filed without the plaintiff having a trademark, so long as they can convince a court that another business’ name infringes on theirs, usually by demonstrating a likelihood of confusion.

Borgata Nightmare: Day Four

It’s Thursday, and the Borgata doesn’t appear to be making all that much progress on the nightmare it finds itself in thanks to a cyberattack on its parent company. The website is still down. The phones are still down.

A friend of mine who arrived at the Borgata on Wednesday told me, “It’s a dog-and-pony show.” According to him, the front desk is doing hotel check-ins old-school, as in with pen and paper. “The lines were a mile long,” he added. “I couldn’t redeem my comps, which really is why we were staying here instead of Caesars. And ‘Thanks for your patience’ doesn’t do much for me. I was trying to get upgraded to a suite. And they didn’t even comp the self-parking garage.”

Statistics We Don’t Like

According to the latest batch of United States Census data released, Philadelphia is still the poorest of the nation’s 10 biggest cities, even though our poverty rate has declined dramatically.

Reader Mail

Yesterday, I expressed my disapproval of all the jokes, “Go Birds” memes and quips going around over the fact that escaped killer Danelo Cavalcante was captured wearing Eagles apparel. It’s fair to say that this story generated quite a bit of comments and reader mail. These reactions ranged from the thoroughly uncreative (“Here’s a tip for you, Victor: Go Birds!”) to the throughly expected accusations that I’m just another woke snowflake, to some that were thoroughly offensive. But, hey, gotta have a thick skin in this business.

I do have to give major props though to the Twitter user who took the time to twist my arguments and words about those memes and make his own meme depicting me as a Karen:

What can I say, people? If you’ve been reading me long enough, you should probably already know these two things about me. First, I just call ’em as I see ’em. And second, to paraphrase Jason Kelce in his triumphant Super Bowl speech: If you don’t like it, I don’t care.

Local Talent

Would you believe there’s a new restaurant in Delco that has people actually driving from Philly, the Main Line, and even frigging Delaware to check it out? It’s true. And we have an interview with that restaurant’s ambitious chef right here.

And speaking of local restaurant talent … congrats to the teams at Pietramala in Northern Liberties and Heavy Metal Sausage in South Philly. Both eateries just landed on Bon Appetit‘s Best New Restaurants list. There are only 24 restaurants on the list.

By the Numbers

100: Approximate number of people displaced by a huge fire in Chester County. The fire broke out just as Chesco was finally able to let out a sigh of relief after the capture of the escaped killer there.

53: Forecasted low in Philly tonight. Three words: Fan. In. Window.

3: Puppeteers it takes to operate Little Amal. That’s the 12-foot-high puppet making its way around the world — and currently in Philly — with a message about the plight of refugees.

And from the Sad-Trombone Sports Desk …

Cristopher Sánchez was on the mound for the Phils for the last game of their series with the Braves last night, and it did not start well for him, as Atlanta took a two-run lead in the first on an Ozzie Albies double and an Austin Riley homer. Gad, there were so many homers in this series! In our half, Kyle Schwarber and Bryce Harper both got walks off (great baseball name alert!) Spencer Strider, and a Bryson Stott single brought one home: 2-1. Atlanta picked up another in the third on singles by Ronald Acuña Jr. and Albies and a sac fly by Riley, then another in the fourth on doubles by Marcell Ozuna and Kevin Pillar. Would the sleeping giant ever waken? “I know he’s allowed four runs, but at times tonight, he’s looked dazzling,” Phils play-by-player Tom McCarthy said of Sánchez. Hmm.

Well, he did have a career-high 10 strikeouts through the seventh, during which Stott had a rather athletic catch.

Yunior Marte finished off the eighth for Sánchez, and it was Dylan Covey holding down the fort in the ninth. Pfft. Nothing doing bat-wise. And the Braves’ win clinched the NL East, which they celebrated in our house.

Hard to stay psyched after a series like that. We have a day to recover before they head to St. Louis for the weekend to play the Cards.

In better news, look who turned up on the Time magazine “100 Next” list!

I guess Philly Mag isn’t the only one to think he’s cover-worthy. Biggest takeaway: He hasn’t seen Barbie yet. And speaking of Hurts, the Eagles have the Thursday Night Football game tonight with a home opener against the Vikings, with kickoff (supposedly) at 8:15. Nakobe Dean, Reed Blankenship, Kenneth Gainwell and James Bradberry will be out for the game, and Fletcher Cox is questionable. Go Birds!

All Philly Today sports coverage is provided by Sandy Hingston.