A feud over the name of a hot dog vendor’s stand on a busy street in Clifton escalated Wednesday when a van crashed through one of the businesses, demolishing everything inside.
Dave Martina, the owner of The Original Jumbo’s – the hot dog stand that was destroyed – says he had been threatened in the past by people who accused him of stealing his name, logo and photos from a hot dog business owned by another family at that same location about 50 years ago.
Due to the ongoing feud, Martina has questioned whether the driver of the construction van, hired to do work at a nearby pizzeria, crashed into his business deliberately.
“I’ve been threatened,” Martina said on Friday. “I’m still being threatened. I have to question whether this was done on purpose or not.”
Clifton police, however, doubt the crash was an intentional act.
But an email from a relative of the original stand sent to NJ Advance Media on Thursday gave a glimpse into the fued.
“That’s what happens when you disrespect the elders of … the rightful founders and originators of “Jumbo’s Italian Ices and Hot Dogs,” Rich Gebbia said in the email.
Gebbia, of Clifton, said in a phone interview on Friday that his grandfather opened “The Original Jumbo’s” back in the 1960s and ran it until closing up shop a decade later.
The building sat empty until Martina opened shop a week ago, which is something Gebbia said he and his family didn’t appreciate. A photo of Gebbia’s grandfather hangs on the new building.
“He grabbed the location, grabbed the name. Went out there claiming to be the original,” Gebbia said. “I think it’s just ironic that (the) powers to be somehow stopped him from doing what he’s doing, which I thought was unbelievable.”
Martina said he’s also received complaints that his business name resembles another vendor’s business across the street, Jumbo Ices.
“The hot dog business across the street is Jumbo with no ‘s.’ They sell hot dogs and Italian Ice also,” Martina said.
The owner of Jumbo Ices could not immediately be reached for comment on Friday.
Martina spent 18 months and $55,000 to turn his dream of opening the stand into a reality when it opened April 28. It’s his third hot dog business in the area, but the first one in a great location with custom-made steamers, sinks and refrigeration .
After a story about the crash published on NJ.com on Thursday, Gebbia emailed NJ Advance Media, saying that Martina stole the “Jumbo” name and therefore got what he deserved.
“He (Martina) was spoken to and just laughed in our faces claiming we couldn’t stop him but guess what, now he’s stopped!” Gebbia said.
Gebbia said on Friday that he believed the crash was accidental, but “ironic” at the same time.
Clifton police agreed, saying surveillance video shows the crash was nothing more than a freak traffic accident that ended with a van crashing into a building.
“It was a three-car accident. It was somebody making a u-turn and it was just an accident,” Det. Lt. Robert Bracken, of the city’s police department, told NJ Advance Media.
Bracken said video from security cameras showed the entire crash from start to finish.
The 6 pm crash involved an illegal u-turn, a car cutting off another vehicle and the red work van plowing into the hot dog building, police said.
“This was a straight-up accident,” Bracken said. “There’s no other explanation unless three cars were able to get on the same page and make this whole thing happen.”
“There’s definitely a feud, there’s no question about that,” Bracken added. “There’s been a feud going on for a while because of the name and stuff like that.”
Police said the crash remains under investigation. It was not clear Friday whether any of the drivers had been ticketed.
Martina said he plans to rebuild the business. He said he’s covered by insurance but he expects the driver of the van’s insurance company to pick up the cost of repairs and construction.
“I lost everything, it seems like. His insurance company is going to have to pay for it,” Martina said.
Thank you for relying on us to provide the journalism you can trust. Please consider supporting NJ.com with a subscription.
Anthony G. Attrino may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TonyAtrino. Find NJ.com on Facebook.