Steamed Crabby Fries fans launch Web offensive

By on December 26, 2011

Since we first covered the saga of a local restaurant, Crabby Fries, being threatened with a lawsuit over trademark infringement by Philadelphia-based Chickie’s & Pete’s, a grassroots movement has come to life.

It is led by unlikely organizers in a campaign that underscores not only the power of social media and the Internet, but also the bond between our regular visitors and the Outer Banks.

Sarah Burger, her husband and Stephanie Banfield launched “Save Crabby Fries” as a special Facebook page. The page has more than 300 members and is growing each day.

The Burgers aren’t locals. They hail from Richmond, Va. They first ventured into Crabby Fries last October based on word-of-mouth recommendations from other visitors. Since then they have returned to Crabby Fries four times and became friends with owner Stephanie Myers.

During one visit, the Burgers learned of the potential lawsuit by Chickie’s and Pete’s, which claims trademark rights to the name crab fires and its variations. The Burgers began to think of ways to help out their new friend. As the story began to emerge online, the idea of starting the Facebook page was born.

The group grew quickly, and its first actions were to post protests on Chickie’s & Pete’s Facebook page. Comments on the Save Crabby Fries homepage suggested that the comments posted at Chickie’s and Pete’s were being deleted almost as quickly as they appeared.

One member of the group, Paul Sumner, sent an e-mail to Hampton Roads television station WVEC-13. Reporter David Ham ran a feature on the restaurant during WVEC’s local newscast.

Next up, Burger’s husband contacted the Philadelphia Business Journal. Reporter Peter Van Allen ran two consecutive stories on Crabby Fries’ plight. The first, under the headline “Chickie’s and Pete’s too crabby about fries trademark?” appeared on Dec. 12 and outlined the story, with links to the WVEC report and the Facebook site.

The following day, Van Allen penned a second story where C&P owner Pete Ciarrocchi defended the legal actions taken by his restaurant chain against Crabby Fries and several other restaurants dotting the mid-Atlantic seaboard. The headline: “Chickie’s and Pete’s Owner: I invented Crabfries.”

Rather than quelling the growing firestorm, the headline and two of Ciarrocchi’s comments in the article seemed to enrage the legion of Facebook fans defending Crabby Fries. In one segment, Van Allen notes: Restaurants that use the term “crab fries” have one option, he (Ciarrocchi) said. “It’s an easy fix: Change the name,” he said. “I want to ask, ‘Did you come up with it on your own?’ I made it up.”

Adding more fuel to the fire, the C&P owner was quoted in the article as saying the latest battle is “people looking for free publicity.”

You can follow this story via the following links:
Save Crabby Fries facebook page »
WVEC story »
Peter Van Allen’s first Philadelphia Business Journal story »
Allen’s second Journal story »

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