Saturday, September 25, 2010

Penguin battle: A story of change

Five months ago, Brian Rowe sat at the counter of The Diamond in Plaza Midwood, an awkward witness to a Charlotte restaurant owner’s farewell.

Jerry Pistiolis was retiring after 28 years of running the cozy diner, and the Charlotte legal crowd that came each day had come once more for a sad but warm celebration. It was an Old Charlotte moment, but also a Plaza Midwood moment.

Pistiolis was selling the joint to three other guys in the neighborhood, including two who had revived another old restaurant around the corner, The Penguin. Rowe and Jimmy King seemed out of place that day, tattooed and T-shirted amid the suits and khakis. But they were gracious to Pistiolis, and they said all the right words about how things at the Diamond wouldn’t change that much.

But now, everything else has.

On Wednesday afternoon, Rowe was again at the Diamond’s counter, texting, making phone calls, agitated. About a decade after buying the rights to operate the Penguin and turning it into one of Charlotte’s few funky treasures, he and King were out. The pair had planned on running the Diamond and Penguin as sister restaurants, but the Ballentine family, which owns The Penguin’s building and name, had decided not to renew their lease.

“We got the shaft,” Rowe said, but he didn’t want to say so publicly, because he worried that a fight might fracture Plaza Midwood’s close-knit community, which already was taking sides. By Thursday, however, Rowe and King had decided that the high road is the place you get run over. “We will do whatever is necessary to deal with this situation and be treated fairly,” they said in a news release.

In other words, the lawyers are now on the menu. Welcome, Plaza Midwood, to the other side of success.

The fight has set off a buzz both fretful and angry in Charlotte, a testament to how hungry we still are here for authenticity. The Penguin is a simple restaurant, a blue-collar joint with fine, cheap food and a let-it-ride attitude. To Charlotteans, it’s not only one of our few truly hip places, but the place we most often pointed at to show others we were capable of hipness.

And now? The Ballentines promise the new Penguin will be the same, with one small exception: The place that proudly flipped the spatula at the chain restaurant culture will be pursuing franchise opportunities.

In Plaza Midwood, the reaction has been more personal. The Penguin sparked a business renaissance there, showing others that you could be true to this rugged neighborhood – and still be successful. It spawned similar places – restaurants and shops that have developed into a dynamic, organic community, supportive of each others’ successes, different.

The businesses and customers celebrated that difference, occasionally with a sneer at Charlotte’s banking culture and Starbucks sippers. But what’s made Plaza Midwood thrive is what’s made much of Charlotte a place we want to be – entrepreneurship, big and small, a sense of wanting more, wanting better. Lulu and Zada Jane’s and Soul? They came to the neighborhood because of the lower rent and committed clientele – the opportunity to make a dollar. You can put a tattoo on it, but it’s still business.

And so comes the byproduct of that culture. A fully lawyered dispute. A family that will move on without the guys who brought its old restaurant to prominence. And now, two guys trying to get what’s theirs – most likely a bigger buyout, but at the risk of dividing a community.

Brian Rowe struggled with that this past week, at his new counter in his new restaurant.

“There’s good change,” he said, “and there’s bad change.”

And, maybe for Plaza Midwood, there’s change that’s inevitable.

51 comments:

pstonge said...

Hi all,

Welcome to the Sunday column, about a topic that people have been buzzing about all week. There are a lot of strong opinions about The Penguin, and those are welcome here. But let's keep from namecalling and other nastiness. Thanks...

Peter

JAT said...

Let's everyone take a depth breath.

First, PStO "few funky treasures" -- compared to what? When? And most of all, why? Ceaseless upmarket re-development is the mortal enemy of funk. Still, if you know where to look, CLT ain't exactly a wasteland.

(At this point, readers who have not had Ethiopian fare in CLT need to drop out.)

Next, chain=evil just cannot be your decision rule. Is Brixx evil? All the Harper's joints? (Not a big fan myself, but they clearly have a following.) 131 Main? Copper/Blue Taj? Mac's Speed Shop?

Oh, and put a Rio Grande Cafe/Uncle Julio's in CLT and it instantly becomes the best Tex-Mex in town by a landslide.

Don't confuse chain economies of scale with corporate blandness. MAYBE multiple Penguins can work, thrive even -- especially if The Diamond is out there pushing, pushing. Competition is good. Yay!

The reaction to Penguingate flashed me back to a fave indie band signing with a major label. "Sellout" "fraud" is the easy, knee-jerk response.

But the proof is in the product, the pudding, and possibly the fried pickles.

Happy noms wherever you nom.

pstonge said...

Hey JAT,

No, not a wasteland at all, especially not in the past five years. But yes, few funky treasures compared to lots of places.

Not sure if upmarket redevelopment is the mortal enemy of funk, which seems to find its way to other places, sometimes, and simply endures at other times in the right climate.

Good thoughts.

Peter

Anonymous said...

It looks like I'll just go to the Diamond when I want Fried Pickles. No big deal

TomP said...

Peter...

Good overview of the situation as it stands now. I don't think expansion and authenticity are mortal enemies - Fuel Pizza has certainly kept the core of what made it popular in Plaza-Midwood as it expanded across the county. If The Penguin had announced they were opening more locations in Charlotte, without the change in ownership or the franchising plan, I don't think there would have been an uproar.

It seems from most people I talk to that have frequented The Penguin over the last decade, it's the franchising that is the killer. I'm not saying franchising is evil or should never be an option, but the circumstance of the guys who built the business being kicked out when franchising becomes the priority leaves a bad bad taste in the mouths of Penguin fans. The guys with a decade's sweat equity pushed aside by people who did no more than collect rent and watch the crowds at the building they own the title to.

The Ballentines should have anticipated the firestorm that this has caused. The fact that they didn't shows that they fundamentally do not understand the business they are attempting to run.

Anonymous said...

Every story about the Penguin leaves out the real history of the Penguin from BEFORE the current management took over. It's great what they did and they brought a lot of business to Plaza-Midwood. they were one of the pioneers of trendy Plaza-Midwood. But a lot of the "nostalgia" people associate the Penguin with is absolutely not what the Penguin used to be. When i was a kid, day laborers who lived in boarding houses would get smashed there. It was well known that heroin was very popular to many of it's regulars. They found a guy who OD'd on heroin dead behind the place one time. We weren't evnen allowed to go near it. the neighborhod called it the dirty bird. It was not "blue collar" and it stil isn't. Back in the day it was a bunch of scary drunk people who barely got by in life. it was conveniently located a few hundred feet from a porno theater and 3 pawn shops. Maybe it was something respectable way way back. But what it was for at least 25 years before they got it was a total dump that was directly associated with trouble for the neighborhood. What these guy did was great for the area and made a cess pool a respectable business. But what people see today is not what it was and they have no idea of what he REAl Penguin was like. The people that go there now are nothing like the people that really used to eat there in the day.

Mark said...

You can't replicate Atmosphere and Attitude. They can franchise, but none of the additional locations will compare to the first. Especially if the guys that created that ambience are no longer involved with the brand. The corporate suits will figure that out once they have screwed it up.

Anonymous said...

7:26 So true! So typical "new" Charlotte.

Anonymous said...

7:26 anon, hit the nail on the head. Even in the early to mid-90's, it was a well know heroin mecca for the region. You could always score whatever you wanted, and the police considered it the most dangerous block in NC.
Bring back the good ole days.

Anonymous said...

7:26. right on, the Penquin was a dump and no one in their right mind would go there in the 70's thru the 90's. As far as the Diamond, it went downhill since the Greeks took it over. I believe a Mr. Dowd owned it and sold out, then briefly opened a restaurant on Mint St. I remember eating at the Diamond as a kid in the 60's & 70's and they had great cooks. After it was sold I ate there one other time and it was horrible.

Anonymous said...

Everyone has forgotten that Greg Auten was apparently bought out for alot of money 5 months ago so he could open Pinkies, (Penguin West) And that Brian and Jimmy themselves filed for the Trademark in 2007. It seems the people associated with the Ballentines, Are not very nice people. I will not associate myself with any of them in the future, Or any of the associated franchises, if this is how they do business. There are alot of places that have great food that try to do the right thing. Like the penguin did for the last 10 years! Mr Sprock kiss my oily black penguin scented tail feathers.

Vampire Lessons said...

all the articles and reports on this story keep repeating the same thing over and over. Pete, was this blog entry REALLY necessary?

As unscrupulous and wrong as it is, seems like the Ballentines are well within their legal rights to do what they are doing. The operators of the Penguin didn't own the name or the building. They had to know that this ugly reality was a real possibility, in light of the venue's tremendous success.

In an apathetic town like Charlotte, it is encouraging to see people upset about something - but there are plenty of other causes out there more noble than burger joint.

Priorities, folks.

Anonymous said...

It's telling that Charlotte's collective memory about this institution is only as long as that of current patrons, about 10 years.

Yes, there were once both not one but two porn shops and a strip club within easy walking distance.

As well as the first Family Dollar Store.

And the biggest classical & church music store and publisher in the south, Brodt's, which is still there, hello Brodt's!

Church music, porn, strip club, heroin, fried pickles.

And you call Charlotte bland...

pstonge said...

Anon, 9:54 and some others: Yes, the story of the Penguin definitely predates 1999 (and no, it's not bland at all.) But it makes the change that the restaurant helped bring to the neighborhood even more remarkable.

Anon, 9:49: Agreed - this isn't the most important topic we'll cover. But this story isn't only about the Penguin, but about how the neighborhood is perhaps seeing a different kind of change now - and that its business success isn't that much different (and with the same byproducts) that come in other places.

What do you think?

Thanks...

Peter

monquee da cat said...

Well in my honest opinion once the chefs or cooks that made the Penquin what it is today are no longer in the Penquin picture, then the franchise will wilt. Food won't be the same as the chefs will take their recipies with them. More often than not the food makes the resturant. Good luck to all involved is this fiasco.

Anonymous said...

My concern is what the Penguin owners will do to the Diamond. Will they go in and redecorate to something trendy? Or will they leave it like it is? 70s style? Will they remove the old-fashioned cash register that my kids are amazed by? I have a feeling this new Diamond ownership will be devastating to the Diamond. Where are all the old folks going to eat now? I certainly never saw them at the Penguin which is supposedly an eclectic mix of people -big eye roll-. And hopefully the Penguin owners will not take their wait staff to Diamond, because they're some of the worst wait staff I've ever come in contact with. I can fry my own pickles at home.

Will said...

I'll bottom line it. While hipsters are losing their heads over the Penguin shake-up but absolutely no one else cares. For me this might as well be a TGI Fridays closing.

Anonymous said...

Brixx isn't evil but that have really lousy pizza. Mac's Speed Shop was great when they first opened on South Blvd. Now that there are three Mac's the quality of the food has gone way down hill. Martin Sprock doesn't know or care about food. All that Nicol's and Sprock care about are dollars.

Will said...

10:26 So I'm assuming you work for free then.

Anonymous said...

I don't live in Charlotte and haven't been caught up in this story. My husband loves the Penguin and what is has to offer--funky atmosphere, mix of people, good food. Seems to me it's really, really simple. What the Penguin used to be is a place of nastiness. The current fellas brought it to where it is today...too bad the owners of the building kept the name. But see, it's not even the name or the place that makes the Penguin the Penguin. Yea, so it's in Plaza Midwood a funky eclectic mix that used to be this and now it's that. My husband's Grandma lived on Lyon Court just up the street so I know how it's changed thru the years. But the owners of the building didn't make the Penguin what the Penguin is. The guys who operate the Penguin made the Penguin what it is. THEY have a following. The name the Penguin and the spot doesn't.

Case in point...Mellow Mushroom. Mellow Mushroom is fab. Great food, great atmophere, great beer...when the franchisee does it right. But I've been to Mellow Mushrooms that I won't go back to. They don't have "it". They have the name and the apparent funk, but they still miss "it". You can almost feel it when you walk in the door. Proof that franchising a groovin' place can work. But, the guy who originally tried to make it with Mellow Mushroom in Charlotte missed "it" by a mile. The quality of the food, the people inside that run the place, the people that cook and serve the food, the people that treat you with service...be it niceness or some sort of funky rudeness.

The guys that made the Penguin "it" still have "it" and can take "it" with them to a new place. It will be the new "it" with a new following. The owners of the building and the name won't make it without "it"...not in the place where the restaurant now sits and not in all the new places they want to franchise.

Anonymous said...

Looks like the chef, Greg auten has dropped out of the deal according to his facebook page. Will this change everything? Sprock said he would franchise ONLY if auten was involved. The ballantyne family does not know the recipes that has made the penguin what it is today! With Greg Auten out, wonder who is still "in".

Anonymous said...

Yet another Penguin story? Keep this up and the Penguin will soon rival BofA for Observer coverage.

Yes, it may be a "story of change", but you're basically just repeating the sazme old stuff here that Helen Schwab has written about four or five times in the past couple of weeks. You may have a couple of new quotes here, and your point of view might be a bit more insightful, but still, it's the same story, and it's become boring.

Time to let this story die a merciful death.

Anonymous said...

I moved from Manhattan's East Village (native NYer) to Plaza/Midwood two years ago. The Penguin always reminded me of what was going wrong in NYC, esp. places like Williamsburg. Fake nostalgia for the personally unremembered. I have no clue how The Penguin or Plaza/Midwood used to be "back in tha day" but I know how NYC was in the 70's and 80's before SoHo, the East Village, Chelsea, etc. were gentrified. Same apparently here in NoDa. Personally, I thought the food at The Penguin was decent, the staff competent at best and the crowd all but entirely conformist (loyal opposition to South Park). I have little hope that The Diamond will be anything but fake nostalgia part deux. Common Market itself is another example of "shabby chic," there's a zillion of them in NYC and other large density urban areas, nothing unique in a general sense. I moved to Plaza/Midwood because it was cheap and close to work. Yes, it is "funkier" than Myers Park or Dilworth but tattoos do not equate to authenticity (again, their own expression of conformity). To me, I drive around town and see Grier Heights, Hidden Valley, Westerly Hills, places like these and now THAT is authentic. But these are the invisible parts of town, one no tourist will ever see. After two years I continue to live in Plaza/Midwood because it is cheap and a pleasing mix of incomes and races, can't think of any other neighborhood I would prefer. But when benchmarked against funky nabes across the world it's not special. One person's opinion. - Marc H

Anonymous said...

At the end of the day, the Penguin will either live or die on its own merits of whether the food is good, the service is good and the atmosphere is good, no matter who owns it. Ideally, if the Penguin stays good and trhives, and the Diamond rises to the standard thet the Penguin has become over the last decade, then Plaza-Midwood will have TWO great restaurants, along with many others (Thomas, Soul, Dish, etc.).

As for the 'shabby-chic' Plaza-midwood, Noda, and other parts of carlotte try to convey, yes we get it, we will never compare to New York or Chicago or other bohemian neighborhoods, but for those of us who've been here for a while, what we have is a major inmprovement over 20 years ago, when Charlotte really didn't have a 'funky' district. It was just a record store here or a club there, but no real eclectic neighborhood. We'll take what we have and build from there.

Anonymous said...

Like someone said before "I can fry my own pickles at home." I like to cook and I can cook most of things you would find in a restaurant and to my personal taste, so when I go out I like to go out for a unique experience and not just to feed face. I don't want to get too sentimental but a unique experience that feels special is what you get when you go in to the Penguin. I try to be a health conscious vegetarian and really only eat the black bean hummus, so needless to say I don't just go there for the food. Oh, I also go for the freshest taking Yuengling.

Anonymous said...

This is a comment about Charlotte in general, although I've been following #penguingate rather closely since I really like the place and am sorry to see the controversy. But hey, controversy can be a good thing if we can get it resolved without ripping each other apart.

I used to live in Plaza Midwood and frequented both the Penguin and the Old Diamond--each had a unique feel and I loved both. And I still go to both although I now live in South Park.

I also loved (and continue to frequent) Dish, Common Market, Zada Jane's, Lulu's, and of course, John's Country Kitchen (now there's a Charlotte treasure!). I look forward to trying some new places, too, like Bistro la bon, Soul, and some of the family-owned, ethnic places on Central Avenue. And of course, I'm looking forward to the opening of the new Diamond.

When I moved to Charlotte from LA ten years ago, I was dismayed by what I found to be a real lack of diversity. I guess I was spoiled after living in a city rich in diversity and with eclectic delights on every corner. I ventured out and discovered many Charlotte treasures over the years, and I discovered there is indeed a burgeoning cultural identity here beyond the banks. It's just taking some time...

For me, the difference between living in a big city like NY or LA and living here in Charlotte is that I have to get out of my head and hit the pavement-- it's the only way I'm going to find the gems hidden all over this city. They're here, with new ones popping up every day.

Phoenixsong Alysia said...

The crux of the biscuit here is that yet another mom-and-pop business is being sold out to corporate interests... In a democracy it is vital that independent businesses thrive.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't really matter who owns or runs The Penguin.

If it's a good product, including food, service and vibe, people will come.

Same with The Diamond.

Spare me the weeping and wailing, please. If any of you had the chance to make a mint by franchising something, you'd do it in a New York minute. The exiting operators had nothing but a license to operate, which they've now lost. Ho hum.

Much ado about nothing, really. Especially the loss of the "recipes." Recipes for a greasy spoon burger joint are somehow priceless and unique? We're not talking The French Laundry.

Anonymous said...

Anon, Your type of personality and greed are the problem here. And no i wouldn't sell out anyone in any New York minute just to make a "mint"

Anonymous said...

Thanks for letting me know you have more sanctimony than common sense.

Wah, wah. Weep, weep, weep.

It says quite a lot about Charlotte, none of it good, that this is what our battles are over.

And I am a native.

Anonymous said...

I sneer when I hear food at The Penguin described as "fine." Excepting the burgers, the food is awful. The menu is blue-collar garbage. However, I applaud the owner/operators for their business success and for putting on all the tourists who stand in line for fried bologna and the chance to watch all the freaks with the tattoos. I also applaud those owners who legally own the building and the naming rights and want a greater return on their properties. And I hope they upgrade the menu and the food.

Anonymous said...

Pete,
This story has been ran enough.
Just move on, nothing else to see here.

Conrad Hunter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I just got back to town from a weekend in Asheville and everywhere there were signs "Love Asheville, Choose Independent, Buy Local." I went there to see a show that had bypassed our city for the Orange Peel.Formerly being in the music business (as are a lot of the Plaza-Midwood business owners) I was struck by how difficult it is to create and support home-grown business in the Queen City.No chains aren't bad in and of themselves just like big box stores but when that's all you have to choose from then you've you're left with a place that's boring, bland and hollow. There's a million other places to go for that kind of experience in Charlotte. They don't need it in Plaza-Midwood.

Anonymous said...

It is amazing to see all the grinding about this topic. I think the Ballentines did exactly what any smart business person would do, look for a maximum return on their investment. You can yell greed all you want, but I am in the food business myself and in this economy, it is really easy to lose you @$$. The hours are long, the customers expect bended knee servitude and the staff that isn't stealing, couldn't give rip except on payday. The headaches are huge and the return is small. If someone offered me a nice return for my place's name and building, I'd be back home in South Beach, sipping mojitos in a skinny minute.

If Rowe and King were so attached to the Penguin, why didn't they match Spriock's offer or at least come up with a creative alternative to offer the Ballentines. Maybe in their original leasing agreement, they might have thought about the future and where they wanted to take the business. Instead, they go off like pouting like a little kids and are using the press to generate sympathy and in turn generate press for the Diamond. The best way for Rowe and King to come out on top of this situation, is not to get the lawyer's involved. That's just petty and probably will just end up costing them more $$ than they will get in return. If they are passionate about doing what they do, they will out Penquin the Penquin. Good food, good staff, good value will be the key for winning this battle, not press statements and lawyers.

Anonymous said...

good post, 3:42

Anonymous said...

This is puzzling to me. You say here they "bought rights" a decade ago. What does that mean? What proof of this has anyone seen? If they bought rights- they would have rights, and not be whining. They have been telling everyone for 10 years they were the owners. Now we see their LEASE was not renewed- so they were just leasing. One of them even admits it was obvious the real owner- Jim's widow- wasn't interested in selling. So now the high road is to sue Jim's widow. Yeah.Really.

Anonymous said...

Its all about the money. Rowe, King, Auten, Ballentines...

It all boils down to the almighty dollar.

Its funny seeing the hipsters taking sides as if one party is wrong and the other is right.

10 years ago when these guys took over they KNEW that the Ballentines were retaining ownership of the name and building - why should they be shocked that now, its a thriving mecca of local hipsters and drunks [and a money maker at that] that the Ballentines wouldnt want it back in order to capitalize on it themselves.

It wouldnt hurt my feelings if all three went down in flames together...Diamond, Penguin, and Pinkys or Peguin westside or whatever its gonna be....

How many bar slash greasy slash hamburger joints does one city need?

Anonymous said...

Mr. St. Onge,

When you remove a post, please provide an explanation for those readers who read said post before the "disappearing." Otherwise, you create an appearance of the post never having existed, which is disingenuous at best. All legal wringing of hands aside, this is a conversation supported by the first amendment, correct? [Note: it wasn't my post nor a post by anyone I know, however, I have been revisiting the comment section hourly today expecting something like this. The removed comment was posted after 8:00 PM and referenced staff behavior which should be part of a public conversation, "proof" notwithstanding.] - Marc H.

pstonge said...

Marc,

The comment you mentioned was deleted because it made an accusation of illegal behavior without proof.

Thanks,

Peter

Anonymous said...

Interesting... but why would someone visit this comment section "hourly" ???? What is YOUR interest?

Anonymous said...

I am not sure why anyone would need proof to post anything in this forum. It seems like a lot of accusations are being made and the reality is that no one will ever know all that has been done in this situation. How about let's remove the herion accusations from the 70's since that has absolutely no proof to be included here either but you seem to have chosen to keep it.

pstonge said...

Thanks, Anon 9:56. You raise a point that confronts all of us who moderate comments. What crosses the line with regards to accusations/proof? It's certainly subjective, but here's my line: The comment that was allowed spoke of heroin use among unspecified regulars years ago, while the comment deleted spoke about illegal behavior among identifiable people now.

As I said, it's one of the biggest challenges we face in the online world. Thoughts are welcome.

Peter

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:35 AM -- Umm, my interest is I like a good train wreck? I fully expected to see comments deleted by the moderator and wanted to catch them before they were so removed, simply for the purposes of titillation? I live in the neighborhood? I have nothing else better to do with my life? - Marc H. (on Hamorton Place)

Adrian DeVore said...

I think that The Penquin was a victim of its own success and needed to grow in order to survive. I ate at The Penquin twice over the years and found it to be a lot of hype with a so-so food selction.

Anonymous said...

Is it about greed or ownership...

Andrew said...

Hollow - is the correct word for chain "spots." Those who don't really get that idea, probably should just frequent their favorite franchises. NYC? HA! You're comparing CLT with NYC? You can actually get into the Penguin without waiting for hours. People who use the word "product" in relation to the food I eat and in the places I choose to hang, shmooze, and grab a beer really just don't belong in this kinda place. Sorry, I don't want to wait 45 minutes for a damn tasty doughnut (Plant NYC). The DIY aesthetic, ethic, and punk rock attitude are lacking in the QC, and the Penguin is...a nice spot, along with Lunchbox Recs. Sure, Macs Speed Shop might have decent food, but who really want to hang there other than the people that would normally frequent TGIFs, but are seeker a "rougher" atmosphere?

Anonymous said...

I'm originally from NYC. I've seen numerous "hot-spots" come and go. Very few were ever "made", most had a history and evolved. Much like the Penguin, some of my favorite places went away due to greed, be it the ownership or the property owners. One thing's for sure- there will be another "place" that people will adopt.
If anyone gets down to Atl.Check out the little 5-points area. Be sure to stop in at "The Vortex" a menu full of heart stoppin grease. you'll have your fill of tatooed waitresses with pink hair, a harley or two hangin from the ceiling. The food is good and reasonably priced. After feeding go take a walk around the area. It's a trip.

Anonymous said...

I love the Penguin and have for years, but I have found my new fix for the best fried pickles in the area.....The String Bean in Belmont! Holy Cow YUM!

I wish these guys luck in resolving their differences and also hope the community will rally around.

But seriously, try The String Bean!

Anonymous said...

Having grown up in the area, I'm very disappointed that The Diamond will no longer be "The Diamond." I love the Penguin and I love the Diamond. Now, both will be gone. Thanks Ballentine family. Please, just go away.

Anonymous said...

Whether you like the idea of franchising or not - the real issue here is that Lisa Ballentine is stealing from Rowe and King. The only thing the Ballentines contibuted to the Penguin is the building and the name - they are nothing but landlords. The successful restaurant here - the one that helped to revitalize this area and bring people from all walks together - was fully created by the hard work and vision of Brian Rowe and Jimmy King. PERIOD.

So basically - the Ballentines are just stealing from them - it's repugnant. How can it be okay to sit back, watch a couple guys devote their hearts and souls to creating something, and then swoop in and just take it from them? Just because you "can"? Sure - this kind of thing happens all the time in business, but that doesn't make it any less wrong.

I also feel bad for Jean Ballentine - for I have the feeling she is just getting stuck in the middle of this thing between her daughter Lisa and Brian /Jimmy.