Just as Hurts Donut’s Wichita franchisees announce their plans to expand to Wichita’s east and south sides, the regional chain’s owners are being counter-sued by the people they say stole their idea and business model.
Smarts Donut owner Bryan Helmer’s lawyer, Todd Tedesco, said Helmer is still planning to open his doughnut shop, but “I believe they’ve chosen a different location.” The former Cero’s space at 1108 E. Douglas that Helmer had been leasing since he announced his plans a year ago – and where he put up a sign – is now back on the market. A “for lease” sign recently went up in the window.
In July, Hurts Donut franchise owners Tim and Kas Clegg filed a lawsuit against Helmer, manager Evan Spicer and Helmer business partner Gloria Medrano, contending 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 alleged that Smarts was using trade secrets from Hurts and asked that the owner be prohibited from opening a business that employs those secrets. It also asks for compensatory and punitive damages.
In November, Tedesco filed a motion asking that the suit be dismissed and said that 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 hadn’t stolen any ideas or recipes.
Earlier this week, Tedesco e-mailed in response to calls to his office and to Helmer. He sent a copy of the counter claim he said he had just filed, which says Kas Clegg defamed the Smarts Donut owners by knowingly making false allegations against them on Facebook and when speaking to The Wichita Eagle about the dispute. It also says that Kas Clegg disparaged the Smarts’ owners names with vendors, potential vendors and Wichita-area residents, and it alleges that the Cleggs’ motive in filing suit was to slow down the opening of Smarts Donut and to run up legal bills so Helmer and his partners could not afford to open.
The suit asks for more than $75,000 in damages from both Kas Clegg and T&C, the Cleggs’ company. On Wednesday, Kas Clegg said she was not allowed to comment on Smarts Donut.
Hurts opened its first Wichita store in July at 7010 W. 21st St. This week, Hurts local franchisees announced plans to lease the former Pacific Coast Pizza space at 7718 E. 37th St. and said they also planned to open stores in south Wichita and in Hutchinson later this year.