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Stashs' Sudden Closing Cost Local Coupon Co. $16,000

Bobby Dubin worked with a Deerfield-based WeDeal.com to sell discounts to his three restaurants, asking for 90 percent of the profit up front. Two weeks later, he closed them all.

Bobby Dubin surprised many this week when he closed his three restaurants — Stashs, 2nd Street Bistro and 2nd Street Enoteca.

One person he especially caught off guard was Jordan Heller, the founder and CEO of Deerfield-based WeDeal.com.

The news meant that Heller had just lost about $16,000.

Heller believes he was intentionally swindled. Dubin says he simply ran out of money when he thought he could hold on a little longer.

'He told me what I needed to hear'

Much like Groupon, WeDeal.com is an online company that offers coupons for discounted goods, services and food. It started in 2010 and has offered almost 1,400 deals since then, many for Highland Park restaurants like Once Upon a Bagel, La Casa de Isaac and Moishe, Michael's and Norton's.

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Heller had long wanted to work with Dubin because of Stashs long history in Highland Park. In early October, he got that chance, when Dubin agreed to meet.

"We've never run 2nd Street or Stashs," Heller told Patch on Thursday. "It's one we always wanted to do."

Dubin met with Heller's sales team and laid out unsually hefty demands, according to Heller: all of his payment up front and a much higher-than-normal percentage of the split. Dubin told the sales team that he was in talks with Groupon and if WeDeal.com refused he would go to them instead, Heller said.

"He played it like he was playing us against the bigger competition," Heller said. "He wanted to give us the edge as long as we met the demands."

A red flag popped up in Heller's head as he heard Dubin's demands, because he was asking for so much so soon. But Stashs' long-standing history in Highland Park assuaged his concerns and he agreed to the deal.

The three deals (one per restaurant) ran starting the week of Oct. 21. One ran that Wednesday, another on Friday and the last one the following Monday. About 1,000 WeDeals sold for all three restaurants.

On Nov. 1, Heller cut Dubin a check for $5,951.82, which was 90 percent of what he was owed. Soon after, Heller heard a rumor that Stashs might close. He called Dubin.

"He told me business wasn't great but he wasn't going anywhere," Heller said. "He told me what I needed to hear."

Less than two weeks later, Dubin closed all three restaurants.

'I just ran out of money'

WeDeal.com will refund everyone who purchased a coupon to any of Dubin's restaurants, putting Heller's losses at $15,651, he said, not including the man hours needed to refund each of the customers who purchased the deal.

"We're really only five people here and we have a mountain of work to dig our way out," Heller said. 

Matt Shaffer, a 10-year Highland Park resident, was one of about a thousand people to buy a WeDeal. He bought his to the Bistro.

"They take half the money and then they close," Shaffer said. "It looks really, really bad."

But, in a short interview on Thursday, Dubin said that he had no intention of closing the restaurants so soon after signing the contracts with WeDeal. Business had been falling off, beginning with what Dubin called "the most unbelievable slide" this past summer. He hoped to make it into the new year, as January used to be good for his restaurants.

"I just ran out of money," Dubin said. "There was nothing to buy anything with."

Dubin said business this past September was a third of what it had been normally. He hoped to get loaned some money from people he knew, but those fell through.

"We tried up until the very end to get more money," Dubin said. "It just didn't happen."

In hindsight, Heller is sure that Dubin knew going into the deal that he would be closing his restaurants soon after WeDeal paid him. 

"He played us," Heller said.

Dubin points out that it was WeDeal that came to him, and said that his own financial loss in his restaurants over the past 10 years has been about $800,000. Dubin said it didn't make sense that he would trick a company out of a few thousand dollars when he had already lost hundreds of thousands.

"There's no truth in it," Dubin said. "There was no intention of closing."

Heller isn't convinced. And Dubin isn't returning his phone calls, Heller said. 

"If it wasn't premeditated, he would give me the check back," Heller said.

He's calling what happened fraud and is dealing with an attorney to see how he can recover his money.

"We have three signed contracts with him," Heller said. "We can come after him if he does not fulfill his end of the bargain."

'A black eye to the restaurant business'

Heller believes that Dubin chose WeDeal.com because the local company is smaller than the giants like Groupon or LivingSocial that might be quicker to fight back.

"He could have potentially taken one of the bigger guys, but maybe he thought, 'Screw the local little guy I know I can milk them,'" Heller said.

The WeDeal CEO is kicking himself for agreeing to the deal with Dubin, calling the decision "foolhardy" in light of Dubin's demands.

But it's not just the financial hit that upsets Heller. There's the damage to his customers' trust in his company, and to their faith in Highland Park restaurants.

"Customer trust, merchant trust, it just gives the whole industry a little bit of a black eye," Heller said. "This business is tough on its own without having predatory practice."

Dubin, who ended the interview because he was walking into a meeting with his lawyer, did not mention if he would be returning the money to WeDeal. It sounded like at this point that might not even be possible.

"I lost everything," he said.

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RRR November 16, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Not sorry to see them go - everytime i was in there the experience was not friendly, the food was expensive and not great - the only thing it had going for it was it was open later than Michaels. Then the Enoteca was a red flag, went there once for dinner did not return as it was just strange to eat behind a curtain and see people with their kids eating pizza and burgers, bad ambiance. The owner had to know he was out of money and leveraged his reputation for a last ditch deal and screwed wedeal, which is a shame. This is a small town, no one will forget this - good luck to the owner - not surprised no one would loan him money as they apparently knew he had no character.
Moe @ the Buck November 16, 2012 at 02:00 PM
We are having a open forum discussion regarding this subject tonight at the $ilver Dollar Tavern in beautiful downtown Highwood. We will order some drinks and argue over whether or not this "Dubin" guy has changed his fryer oil in the last three weeks.
ppierce November 16, 2012 at 02:43 PM
If he was truly out of money, which i believe at this point, I'm sure his mindsight was "if i can just get an extra $5 or $6 thousand dollars, i can turn this thing around." He treated We Deal as a bank and not a coupon company. He should return that money or face consequences. Although, I'm sure he will soon be protected under Bankruptcy.
Daniel November 16, 2012 at 03:04 PM
I feel bad for We Deal. Normally you assume that when you enter into a business deal that both parties are acting in good faith. Don't think they will have much luck collecting or bringing criminal charges. What bothers me is that Dubin is going to continue to provide lunches to Lincoln School on "Food Days". Apparently he has the money to do that and the Lincoln PTA thinks its a fine idea. He cut a deal with Once Upon a Bagel to use their kitchen. With winter and the Flu season coming, I think they should use him to provide Cough Medicine also. See below: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1986-04-08/news/8601250743_1_medicaid-program-sentenced-codeine-based
me November 16, 2012 at 03:15 PM
http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1985-03-06/news/8501130025_1_medicaid-fraud-morton-goldsmith-plea-agreement
Bob Levi November 16, 2012 at 03:36 PM
A comment above states that Bobby will be using the OUAB kitchen for his catering business. My guess is that he'll use the OUAB Mean Franks hotdog business kitchen up in Highwood. That facility was originally going to be a catering kitchen for OUAB and maybe still is. The Highland Park location cooks everything in the front part of the store and the back is their bakery. I doubt if they'd want frying oil fumes in their bagel dough.
North Shore News November 16, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Couldn't have happened to a nicer coupon company. Looks are deceiving, and what goes around comes around.
Rich M November 16, 2012 at 05:33 PM
Yeah but don't you own The Buck aka Silver Dollar where this would be held? That helps YOUR business. Pretty clever there guy.
Moe @ the Buck November 16, 2012 at 06:32 PM
Rich M, hey guy,It's Moe. No, I don't own "the Buck" aka $ilver Dollar Tavern. But thanks a lot for the compliment.I'm just mearly a bartender/entertainer For the past 18 years there. My moto is "the beer is cold, and the insults are free". A lot of people think that I do own that bar because of the time and effort I put in to make sure that all who walks through those doors feel welcome. Do you have to be an owner to be proud of a business? Well, maybe one day I will own Silver Dollar, until then I'm going to just keep doing what I'm doing. Come by Rich, I'll buy you a beer.
Daniel November 16, 2012 at 07:30 PM
Anyone know what is going on with the "M" Restaurant. Tried going for lunch and its empty. Called and got a message saying their hours but nobody seems around.
Rich M November 16, 2012 at 09:10 PM
Hey Moe, It just sounded like a pitch when you said "beautiful downtown Highwood" and misleading with "we will order some drinks." Does that mean free alcohol for all involved? You certainly do not have to be an owner to be proud of a business, it just came off shady to me - no offense. Thanks for the beer offer too, I don't drink. My brother's band The Buckleys are playing at your place in a few weeks. Everybody go to the Silver Dollar!
texsunstar November 16, 2012 at 09:24 PM
I feel terrible for We Deal. I've worked with Jordan and Brad and they are totally honest and ethical businessmen. They definitely got taken. I've lost all respect for Mr. Dubin. I'm sorry that the restaurants closed, but he has to have known that business was off for a long time - not just the past few months. Mr. Dubin should return the $ to We Deal. I'm waiting to hear the next chapter of this story and I hope it turns out well for We Deal! They definitely do not deserve this hassle.
Moe @ the Buck November 16, 2012 at 09:53 PM
Hey Rich, I love the Buckleys! I towed them on a hay wagon for the Great Highwood Pumpkin Fest Parade. Man what a great time we all had. We even pulled the float over to the Buck and they played a set in front. Ask your bro about that one. But Rich, you don't need to drink to come have a few laughs with Moe. The invitation is still open. I'll see you at the Buckleys December 1st otherwise. And everyone remember to shop local! And I don't mean online from your home.
SickofHP November 16, 2012 at 10:35 PM
Why would any one cut a deal with this crook after all his slimey moves. You lay down with dogs you get up with fleas. But then again I have heard the UOAB owner isn't so "Kosher" himself. He has been a bit dirty in the industry too. Seriously what is the appeal of HP? The classy backstabbing at all levels?
Sohn November 16, 2012 at 11:18 PM
Seems to me that it was Wedeal was the one that got greedy.
Larry November 16, 2012 at 11:41 PM
Sorry to see him go. But Michaels in HP will be glad to honor any of his paper coupons evan if they are expired.
sundevilpeg November 17, 2012 at 12:29 AM
Dubin apparently deliberately defrauded this local Lake Co.-based company. If you have something to say about WeDeal.com, say it. Innuendo is cowardly, and is still slander.
sundevilpeg November 17, 2012 at 12:32 AM
In what possible way was WeDeal.com "greedy"? Please explain, based on this article, and the previous one on this matter.
Richard B November 17, 2012 at 06:14 PM
closed
Chilawyer November 17, 2012 at 08:03 PM
Whoever said there's no such thing as bad publicity should read this pathetic tale.
tod "Handyman Extraordinaire" November 18, 2012 at 05:57 PM
Saturday at stash's 1974. 7 guys behind counter, crowd 6 deep tryin to order next. Dog n fries 85¢. Those was the days.
texsunstar November 18, 2012 at 11:08 PM
What a mean comment when someone had an unfortunate situation like We Deal just experienced. You must be a very unhappy, angry person to say something like that. Have some compassion for others...And remember, what goes around DOES come around-especially to someone like you.
Martin Heller November 19, 2012 at 12:40 AM
I ate at Stash's 59 years ago when it was Mutt & Jeff's in Albany Park. Ironically enough, that's where Bob Dubin also started out as a kid! OK! Let's cut to the chase here. I grew up in a dysfunctional family with a mentally ill father. My buddy across the street grew up with his mother on the run for writing bad checks. My two pals down the block lived on their Grandfathers sofa because their dad was in Levenworth Penitentiary. Bob Dubin grew up watching his father dying from age 6 to 16. Bob made it through by working full time through high school & putting himself through college. If you haven't experienced desperation in your life, or been truly up against it, don't be so quick to make judgement about someone's else's level of integrity. Weather you liked how Stash's or not, understand that he's an , intelligent, compassionate, and generous man. Bob worked effortlessly for many different charities that came to him for support in H.P. and was active in many H.P. business groups promoting the well being of local merchants. Has Bob made any mistakes in life? Who hasn't? However, he has paid dearly for bad choices and let he who is without sin here cast the first stone! To assume & judge anyone about anything with out knowing the person or the circumstances is unfair, unjust, and just plain ignorant!
Daniel November 19, 2012 at 03:19 AM
A hard childhood does not excuse being a drug dealer as an adult. It also doesn't excuse ripping off WE Deal whenthings are bad. He is just a bad man. People make bad choices but not that bad.
Jack Straw November 19, 2012 at 04:01 AM
Come on, Bob should have just got a big old trust fund like everyone else. Honestly what the hell was he thinking take a risk, work 16 hours a day, for god sake Bob just do it the north shore way, get it from your daddy.
Daniel November 19, 2012 at 09:46 AM
Plenty of people have had rough childhoods and did not resort to crime. He did not work 16 hour days ever.
Mr. Knowledgeable March 03, 2013 at 12:37 AM
Dubin and Gerry Geffen the sole shareholder of Once Upon A Bagel have been close friends for many years. I've seen Gerry at Stash's with his wife many evenings. I know Gerry's reputation, I"m sure Dubin is as devious!
Mr. Knowledgeable March 03, 2013 at 12:39 AM
Not true, the HIghwood location was supposed to be their catering end until Tim Krueger a long time employee caught on to what the family was doing illegally. They fired Tim from a 6 figure job and the bakery products at OUAB are from Leonard's on Dundee and Pfinsten, another close friend of Gerry Geffen.
Mr. Knowledgeable March 03, 2013 at 12:47 AM
Where did Dubin get $800K from? Certainly not his friends, associates or people in the industry in HP. Can someone please share with me one restaurant there that exudes credibility? Maybe Lisa from Vibe but I can't think of another one. I know many of the owners and I"m not impressed with most. Talk to Jeff at Tamales about Geffen.........
Mr. Knowledgeable March 03, 2013 at 12:53 AM
Here's some additional info to think seriously about. Larry I. Serlin is OUAB's attorney, Gerry Geffen's very close friend, a major crook, lousy attorney and was also the attorney for Bobby Dubin. Hmmmmmmmmmmm WTF?

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