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Published: Friday, 3/19/2004

Judge puts lid on simmering sauce spat

PORT CLINTON - Joyce Magi acknowledges that her family didn't create the popular spaghetti sauce served at Phil's Inn in Port Clinton, but she's happy that a judge has affirmed the Magis as the sole owner of the recipe.

In a ruling earlier this month, Judge Paul Moon of Ottawa County Common Pleas Court rejected a request from three daughters of restaurant founders Armenio and Lidia Phillips to let them disseminate the recipe, which has been kept secret under a 1970 purchase agreement.

"We were relieved and felt totally justified in that decision,'' Mrs. Magi said yesterday. "It's 30-some years we had this recipe, and we bought it with the understanding that it was lock, stock, and barrel.''

Geraldine Gill, Pauline Hunsinger, and Margaret Phillips, all of Port Clinton, sued Magi Enterprises, Inc., in November, 2002, claiming that the Magi family falsely took credit for developing the sauce, which the Magis acquired along with the restaurant.

Phil's Inn was founded in 1948 by the sisters' parents and an uncle, Phillip Phillips.

Judge Moon, who characterized the dispute "as a tempest in a sauce pot'' in his ruling, wrote that Mrs. Gill and her sisters had no legal rights to the sauce recipe, since their relatives conveyed "all right and title and interest they have in all recipes, together with the recipes used in the preparation of food at said business.''

Mrs. Magi, who bought the Perry Street restaurant and the prized sauce recipe with her late husband and a former partner for $222,000, said yesterday that the dispute was all a misunderstanding.

She said media reports incorrectly characterized her family as claiming it originated the sauce.

"For me to claim that it's my recipe is insane,'' she said. "When we say it's 'we,' it's the same advertisements that Phil put in in 1948. I would never not give their family credit for something as cherished as that recipe is.''

Neither Mrs. Gill, Mrs. Hunsinger, nor Margaret Phillips could be reached for comment.

Their mother, who is 91, resides in a local nursing home.

In an interview when the suit was filed in November, 2002,

Mrs. Gill said she and her sisters were fighting to protect their family's legacy.

"They have pushed too many buttons by saying this is their family recipe,'' she said then. "They are showing no respect for our family by basically saying we don't exist.''

The legal dispute has been a wrenching turn in the relationship between the families, which goes back generations, Mrs. Magi said.

"My husband's father and Phil were best friends,'' she said.

Mrs. Magi and her husband had worked in the restaurant during the late 1960s before buying it from the Phillips family, she added.

Phillip Phillips brought in the Magis as employees to make sure they would be prepared to take over the business, according to Mrs. Magi.



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