Dining With Denise Neil

Smarts Doughnut owner fighting Hurts suit, still plans to open

The owner of Smarts Doughnut in downtown Wichita still plans to open, his lawyer says. He just doesn’t know exactly when.
The owner of Smarts Doughnut in downtown Wichita still plans to open, his lawyer says. He just doesn’t know exactly when. The Wichita Eagle

The owner of Smarts Doughnut still plans to open his shop in the old Cero’s spot at 1108 E. Douglas, his lawyer says. But he doesn’t know exactly when.

In the meantime, he’s fighting a lawsuit filed by Hurts Donut Co. and its owners, Tim and Kas Clegg. Attorney Todd Tedesco, who is representing Smarts owner Bryan Helmer, manager Evan Spicer and Gloria Medrano, said he has filed a motion asking that the suit be dismissed, and if not, that it be moved from Missouri courts to Kansas courts.

The suit “has had an effect” on his clients’ ability to get their store open, Tedesco said.

“They all testified last week,” he said. “They intend to open the shop, but they don’t have an opening date.”

Just before the Hurts Donut franchise opened at 7010 W. 21st St. in July, the Cleggs, who founded the chain in Springfield, Mo., in 2014, said they planned to file suit against Smarts Doughnut. At the time, the Smarts owner said he was hoping to be open within a couple of months. A green sign that says “Doughnuts” was hung on the east-facing side of the building months ago. An unlighted “open” sign hangs in the front windows now, but the windows are covered with paper.

The Cleggs contended that Helmer and Spicer were in talks with them in early 2015 to open a Hurts Donut franchise in Lawrence and that they spent several days in their stores gathering information about the business before backing out and making plans to open their own shop in Wichita. The suit alleges that Smarts is using trade secrets from Hurts and asks that the owner be prohibited from opening a business that employs those secrets. It also asks for compensatory and punitive damages.

Helmer has said that he and Spicer were in talks with the Cleggs about opening a Lawrence franchise but that they only spent a couple of hours in Hurts stores. They were considering opening a franchise in Lawrence but learned that there was already a Hurtz Donut there. They decided instead to open their own doughnut business in Wichita, Helmer said.

Tedesco said this week that the Cleggs only decided to open in Wichita after learning of his clients’ plans. The idea of selling “doughnuts topped with cereal” was not invented by the Cleggs, he said, and his clients haven’t stolen any ideas or recipes. .

One thing both sides agree on: The lawsuit is likely to take some time to resolve.

“I can’t foresee an end without a settlement,” Todd Clegg said.

The two sides have court-ordered mediation scheduled in early December. “Until we do that, we’ve been instructed not to comment,” he said.

But, he said, he and his wife are too busy expanding their business to focus much on the lawsuit. Since July, they’ve opened a franchise in Coralville, Iowa, and are working on a second Springfield location.

“We’re not spending a whole lot of time on it. We’re moving on with our own business,” he said. “It’s something that’s kind of a thorn in our side, but we haven’t forgotten about it. We’re still trying to pursue our claim.”