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Jimmy's Famous Seafood slams Subway (and child porn) in tweet

Jimmy's Seafood co-owner slams Subway
Jimmy's Seafood co-owner slams Subway

John Minadakis, the co-owner of Jimmy's Famous Seafood in Dundalk, isn't backing down from comments he posted on Twitter taking aim at the Subway sandwich chain and former spokesman Jared Fogle.

Far from it.

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"We're a family-owned restaurant, and we take great pride in not being a vanilla business," Minadakis said over the phone. "When we see something we don't approve of like Jared and Subway, we're quick to make our opinions known."

"Sorry, @SUBWAY," the tweet said. "Not only are our sandwiches better, but our spokesman loves animals, not little kids. #ShameOnYou."

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The accompanying image of Minadakis holding a dog is part of the "Show Your Soft Side" campaign that fights animal cruelty in Baltimore.

"Pretty much everybody that we've talked to has gotten a kick out of that tweet, but there are always going to be a few dummies who don't know anything about our business," Minadakis said of the Tuesday post. "We don't care what they think."

Fogle is the guy who lost nearly 200 pounds after restricting himself to a diet of mostly Subway sandwiches, and later rose to fame as pitchman for the national sandwich chain.

The corporate relationship was suspended Tuesday, after the FBI, Indiana State Police and the U.S. Postal Service swooped down on the pitchman's home and seized documents, electronics and other items. The sweep came two months after an associate of Fogle's was arrested on charges of child pornography.

Some in the Twittersphere seemed to think Minadakis' statement was a marketing strategy gone awry.

A user with the handle doctor flexmatrix tweeted: "bad bad bad social media 'joke.' "

Another user commented: "I would rethink this marketing strategy," while a third added: "Really? Using a child porn situation as a marketing tactic against a competitor like this? Interesting choice."

For his part, Minadakis says he was reacting more as a father to a disturbing item in the news than as a businessman. Though no charges have been filed against Fogle, Minadakis says: "The FBI isn't going to show up at his door for no reason."

In what he describes as "the unlikely event" that Fogle is never charged, Minadakis said that he will "be more than happy to apologize and invite him to dinner."

Ryan Goff, social media director for the Owings Mills-based marketing firm MGH Inc., thinks the tweet was a mistake that could have serious consequences for Minadakis and his restaurant.

"If Jimmy's was my client, I would have advised them against that posting," he says. "He's lucky it didn't go viral."

By inserting the name of Jimmy's Famous Seafood into a scandal, Minadakis could accidentally link the two in the minds of the public.

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"You want people to associate your brand with good times and beautiful food," he says, "not something incredibly atrocious and offensive."

And, Goff said, Minadakis obtained no business benefit from publicly attacking the giant sandwich chain -- an entity with which his local restaurant doesn't compete.

"If you're going to throw some mud, there should be some benefit to it," Goff said. "But these are completely different dining experiences. He's also inviting scrutiny of his own restaurant. If I were him, I'd want to be careful that his staff and in particular his spokesperson are 100 percent clean."

For instance, he said, Minadakis is inviting the public to take extra notice of the cover image on his Twitter account that promotes the ties between Jimmy's Seafood and former Baltimore Raven Ray Rice.

Minadakis said that photo shows Rice and several of his former teammates attending a fundraising event after the players had donated $5,000 each for leukemia research.

"Ray made one mistake," Minadakis said. "His behavior before and after the elevator incident shows the kind of man he is."

Rice was released by the Ravens last September after two videos were made public that showed him punching his then-fiance while they were in the elevator of a New Jersey casino, knocking her unconscious.

mary.mccauley@baltsun.com

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