About eight months after Tony Elmageed opened his Galaxie Diner in Apple Valley, an out-of-this-world copyright infringement problem forced him to change the name of the increasingly popular eatery.
It turns out the name of Elmageed's diner was almost identical to the famous Galaxy Drive In in St. Louis Park.
That seasonal eatery is owned by Steve Schussler, a multi-millionaire restaurant creator who also developed the Rainforest Cafe concept.
"He had the Galaxy name copyrighted," said Elmageed, who received a letter in August asking him to change the name of his establishment. "I asked my attorney and he said there was nothing I could do."
Rather than get into an expensive food fight over the name, the former professional soccer player from Egypt decided to make the best of the situation, and even use it for some promotional fun.
His solution: Have customers vote on the new name of the establishment. He asked them to vote in person and on the diner's Facebook page.
The winner: Valley Diner, submitted by regular customer Alex Guenther, who received a $100 gift certificate to the newly named eatery as a prize. He also will have a menu item named after him on the Valley Diner menu next year.
"I love the name because we are in Apple Valley," said Elmageed, who has owned and operated several diners in the Twin Cities metropolitan area since arriving in Minnesota in 2000.
A lot of entries
More than 500 people participated in the voting, including one 3-year-old boy who wanted the place named after him because he loves the diner's hamburgers so much. Given its location, on Galaxie Avenue and 153rd Street in the Shops on Galaxie complex, a close second in the naming contest was Corner Diner.
Other suggestions included Jukebox Diner, Ma's Diner, Hollywood Diner, Big Apple Diner, Red Apple Diner, Jetsons Diner, Elroy's Diner and even Spacely's Diner.
"I like them all," Paula Christiansen, a customer, wrote on the Facebook page. "And I like that you are asking the locals what they think since they are the ones who will be gracing your doorstep."
The most creative name might have come from customer Tyler Dvorak, who suggested "eixalag" -- "Galaxie" spelled backwards.
"Then just flip your nice sign upside down," he wrote on the Facebook page. "You won't be using 'Galaxie' anymore! It would be called upside down 'eixalag'! It will look great!"
Elmageed said he appreciated all of the suggestions and was touched by how many people expressed their support.
Although the legal situation with the name was troubling at first, he said he was confident he could make a success of his new place in Apple Valley.
"I know diners," said Elmageed, the former owner of the Cahill Diner in Inver Grove Heights and the Uptowner Cafe on Grand Avenue in St. Paul. "That's what I love."
All told, Elmageed estimated he spent about $5,000 to change the name, the signs, the uniforms, the menus and other paraphernalia associated with the old Galaxie Diner.
"In the beginning, it was really bad," he said about the legal difficulties. "But it turned out good. The business is still the same. In fact, it might have helped a bit because of all of the publicity."
Heron Marquez • 952-707-9994