UPDATED, 6/3/2015, 2:23 p.m.
We have received the following statement from Cosmo Parisi, Dunkin' Brands franchisee, via a public relations firm:
“Upon looking into this matter more closely, I have determined there is no conflict or dispute between my business and Brooks’ Place. In the spirit of being a good member of the community, I wish Mr. Brooks continued success.”
According to Trent Brooks of Brooks’ Place barbecue trailer, new neighbor Dunkin’ Donuts has demanded he stop selling breakfast tacos. The franchise location at 7017 Barker Cypress opened about six months ago.
Brooks says that the franchisee of that Dunkin’ Donuts location visited the trailer on May 29 and, in front of Brooks’s customers, angrily demanded that he stop selling breakfast tacos. The franchisee said that Brooks’s breakfast business is hurting Dunkin’ Donuts. He went further to say that the Dunkin' Donuts lease contains a non-compete clause.
Here’s the problem: Dunkin’ Donuts and Brooks’ Place have two different landlords. Dunkin’ Donuts’ landlord is Milestone Properties. Brooks’ Place’s landlord is Langham Creek Ace Hardware. Brooks leases the lot his trailer sits on from them.
We initially called the Ace Hardware to verify Brooks’s claim that Ace, not Milestone Properties, owns the lot that Brooks’ Place’s trailer sits on. Since we were unable to reach the owner, we checked the Cypress-Fairbanks property tax records. Indeed, the property owner of 18020 FM 529 in Cypress shows up as Langham Creek Ace Hardware dba CNOS Enterprises Inc.
We called Dunkin’ Donuts several times to talk with the franchisee. Not only was he unavailable, but the employee answering the phone refused to tell us the franchisee’s name.
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Brooks says the Dunkin’ Donuts operator has complained to Milestone Properties. Even though Milestone is not Brooks’s landlord and does not own the property his trailer sits on, a representative of the company yanked a sign advertising Brooks’s breakfast tacos out of the ground in an easement area near the road. He returned the sign to Brooks’ and ignored Brooks’s complaint that the easement area does not belong to Milestone Properties. It belongs to the City of Cypress.
“This has gotten way out of hand,” says Brooks. “All of this over $1.99 tacos.” He says that he has twice now received veiled threats from the Dunkin’ Donuts operator. He claims he was once told, “We wouldn’t want anything to happen to your business,” and on a separate occasion, “We have some very powerful people on our side.”
“I wouldn’t have reached out to the media if they hadn’t have threatened my business,” says Brooks. He also said he has nothing but an amicable relationship with his landlord, Ace Hardware. “They have nothing to do with this,” says Brooks. “This is between me and Dunkin’ Donuts.” Brooks only offers the breakfast tacos from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. Wednesdays through Fridays.
Brooks’ Place has done business in the same spot for about five years, garnering statewide acclaim for its barbecue. It's a Houston Press Critic's Pick, listed as one of the 50 best barbecue joints in Texas at Texas Monthly magazine, with a score of 4.25 out of a possible 5. Brooks’ Place has a 4.5 star consumer rating on Yelp, countless positive reviews from barbecue blogs and a two-star review from the Houston Chronicle restaurant critic, Alison Cook.