FOX CITIES SIGN & LIGHTING Jim Marks Defends Alleged Sign Theft

We asked Jim Marks, owner of Fox Cities Sign in Menasha, WI, to justify his alleged theft and destruction of a local company’s signage on behalf of an out-of-state bully.  We received 15 emails in 5 hours from Jim Marks that included insults, profanity, and Marks’ assertion that those whose businesses fail somehow lose their property rights.

(UnhappyFranchisee.Comby Sean Kelly Yesterday, the news media featured amazing stories of everyday Americans risking their lives to help, and in some cases save the lives of, strangers who had been hard-hit by the devastating floods in Texas.

Men, women and teenagers, waist deep in  rushing water, interlocked arms to form a human chain in order to save an elderly man trapped in his sinking truck.

Another group formed a chain to help a woman in labor reach the truck that would take her to the hospital where her baby would be safely delivered hours later.

For a few moments, I felt reassured at the goodness and compassion of these everyday heroes.

And then my phone would ding with the next email message from Jim Marks of Fox Cities Sign… and I’d be reminded that not all are so caring and unselfish.

As it turns out, some people will cross a raging river to help a neighbor in need.

Others, like Jim Marks, in my opinion, see nothing wrong with selling their neighbors down the river if it’ll put a few bucks in their pocket.

Fox Cities Sign Owner Jim Marks Denies Any Wrongdoing

Fox Cities Sign & LightingFor 5 hours I received emails from Marks claiming that he is the victim, not the local business owners whose signs he was paid to secretly seize and destroyed.

In my post yesterday (Should Wisconsin Businesses Boycott Fox Cities Sign & Jim Marks?), I had described how a vindictive franchise company had, through its intermediary Northwest Signs of Georgia, paid Jim Marks to secretly remove and destroy signage owned by franchisee locations in Appleton and Green Bay, WI.

Jim Marks had admitted that he was paid to remove and destroy signage the owners had paid over $21,000 to install without getting permission from the property owners or the sign owners.

I invited Jim Marks to provide his side of the story, to provide a statement or rebuttal, or to admit that he may have been a bit lax in his procedures (as other sign industry professionals have said), and that he will make some changes in the future.

Instead of the professional, well-reasoned response one might expect from a business owner whose success depends on his reputation among the owners of small and mid-sized business, Jim Marks defended his actions with a flurry of 15 rambling,  nearly unintelligible, profanity laced email messages (which I’ve posted in entirety below).

  • He stated that he regularly seizes and destroys signs of local businesses without asking for proof of ownership or legal authority.
  • He threatened to sue me, and said legal action was underway.
  • He called me a jackass.  A moron. An ignorant fool.
  • He told me: “take that shit off your website.”
  • He complained that I didn’t report that he had documentation, then refused to provide documentation.
  • He claimed Fox Cities Sign does not work at night, despite the fact that 24-hour service is prominently advertised on his website.
  • He claims that he is the victim because the franchisee complained online and because I am asking him to justify his business practices.
  • He suggested that we harass the company that hired and paid him instead of him.

Fox Cities Sign Secretly Seizes & Destroys Signs “All The Time”?

Fox Cities Sign & Lighting“I do this type of operation all the time,” wrote Jim Marks

After repeated efforts to ask him why he feels he has the right to enter commercial property without permission (aka trespassing), take other people’s property without their permission (aka stealing), and destroy it (aka vandalism, aka destruction of property), I could only discern two justifications:

First, he believes that his only moral and legal obligation was to perform the duties needed to get paid.

He claims he was “under contract” and secretly seized and destroyed signs that did not belong to him or his client “in the proper order,” so he shouldn’t be questioned.

Second, he believes that because the local business owners were having financial hardship and they were in a dispute with their franchisor, they deserve whatever they get.

He wrote:  “none of this would’ve happened if they would run their business like they should have they need to take full responsibility for the actions taken by their franchise company.”

In a message to the sign owners, he wrote:  “If you didn’t get yourself in financial trouble, this never would have happened.”

The truth is, the franchisee’s only mistake was being fooled by the deceptive tactics of a horrible franchise company named Dickey’s Barbecue Pit.

Dozens of Dickey’s Barbecue Pit franchise locations are closing across the country. (See DICKEY’S BARBECUE PIT Closed Location List, DICKEY’S Franchise Graveyard)

The Appleton and Green Bay stores were in good operational standing, and there is no evidence that the franchisees were not strong operators.

Fox Cities Sign Was Paid to Help Bully a Local Business Owner

However, it seems that the Appleton franchisee committed the ultimate sin according to Dickey’s:  They told the media the truth about the Dickey’s fraudulent success story.

One month earlier, the wife of the franchise owner was quoted in the Post-Crescent newspaper about how Dickey’s mismanagement led to the closing of their and many other franchise locations.

It’s believed that the couple’s unwillingness to go away quietly made them a target of the very vindictive Dickey’s corporate legal team.

Instead of contracting a sign company simply to cover the locations signs, as they had for other closed locations, it’s believed that Dickey’s Jeff Gruber asked Northwest Signs of Atlanta to find a local company willing to remove and destroy the signage owned by the franchisees.

Northwest Signs of Georgia found a willing accomplice in Jim Marks and Fox Cities Sign.

In my opinion, Jim Marks and Fox Cities Sign were only too glad to help to bully, intimidate and cause additional financial pain to an already devastated family.

After all, the local franchisees had refused to hire him for sign maintenance despite several visits to the restaurants.

When given a chance to apologize or express remorse, here is how Jim Marks responded:

Jim Marks’ Email Messages to UnhappyFranchisee 8/30/17

At 1:34, Jim Marks wrote:

You’ll be hearing from my attorney. Sitzmann law firm in Appleton Wisconsin

2:10, Jim Marks wrote:

This is the best fake news I’ve seen since the election. If we were guilty of anything we would’ve been sued already why hasn’t that happened because we did nothing wrong get that through your head. I just got off the phone with my attorney we are pursuing action.

2:13, Jim Marks wrote:


Those signs had a value of less than 5000 where they came up with 30000I have no idea other than the work you up to write the story apparently it worked

Dickey's logo2:27 pm, Jim Marks wrote:

Think about something how would you like that if I just put something like that out there that somebody gave me a story without real documentation about your website? I don’t think you would be too thrilled to even have your name mentioned this is a personal attack against me and my name is there and my company name.

You should be going after the person that gave me the contract not me I did everything by law. But apparently your owners don’t understand that they should be taking it out on them not me personally. This is taken way out of context I do this type of operation all the time. You have to pissed off franchise owner that’s not my problem that’s their problem I have all the documentation and I wish you would just put that out there that I have documentation to do this it’s a franchise owner and the franchise that have the dispute I should never been involved with any conversation and if you have any intelligence and if you write enough about this type of thing you know I’m right but you can’t understand that you have to make a living so this is what you do.

2:43 PM, Jim Marks wrote:

I’ll let my lawyer handle of documentation

2:44 PM, Jim Marks wrote:

One more thing if I am so wrong why has neither the franchise or anybody else  contacted me other than you to write a story?

3:19 PM, Jim Marks wrote:

Number one get your facts straight we don’t do stuff in the middle of the night my god what do you think I am but you better not answer that because I don’t have much respect for you anymore. We are a reparable company for 11 years we only work under contract why are you not harassing the contract company why are you strictly harassing me. All I can say is get a life God there’s got to be other way is better to make a living and what you’re doing harassing people. How would those franchise owners like it if I harass them for harassing me on Facebook Google and reporting it to you I don’t think they would appreciate it but they deserved to have me harass them for faults statements.  Get over yourself and get a real job.

Fox Cities Sign3:21 PM, Jim Marks wrote:

Oh yes and by the way there was no mistake no guilt on my part. You just think you can throw stuff out there and that you’re better than anybody else because you have freedom of speech what about the word respect? Why don’t you tell them the rest of the story that I was under contract and I did it in proper order according to the contract and that the franchise owners have a problem with it why don’t you report that?  And that signed documentation of 21,000 as a bunch of crap after signs are put up they lose 2/3 of their value but it worked on you you took it seriously you want to do a little investigating yourself I’m at signage is worth after it’s been installed in a building for 2 to 3 years do some investigation report you to start putting crap out there.

3:23 PM, Jim Marks wrote:

Go ahead and talk to the Sign Association I would love to have you do that ask them what happens when I get a contract to take down signs. You should’ve done all that before you reported any of this but no you don’t dig you just want to throw slander out there. That’s what your website is all about whatever you can dig dirt on anything against the franchisee what a way to make a living how the hell do you help you sleep at night??

3:46 PM, Jim Marks wrote:

How many times do I need to tell you take it up with the franchise

4:20 PM, Jim Marks wrote:

I’ll tell you what you apologize and take that shit off your website and maybe I would have some remorse but your egg in the situation on thinking that I have no right to do what I did and the last thing I’m going to do is apologize for something that wasn’t wrong when you apologize for putting false information on your website I might consider a little bit of remorse for the poor owners that can’t run their business to the point where this type of thing had to happen I didn’t ask for this to happen to them they are the ones responsible for what actions were taken why don’t they own up and admit that???

4:20 PM, Fox Cities Sign owner Jim Marks wrote:

Again nobody put them in that situation except themselves they need to man up and take responsibility and not blame everybody else.

Fox Cities Sign & Lighting4:54 PM, Jim Marks wrote:

I have told you a dozen times and I’ve not been talking to you anymore you just can’t get it through your thick head none of this would’ve happened if they would run their business like they should have they need to take full responsibility for the actions taken by their franchise company. Using the language you have your not bringing up questions anymore you are The judge and jury without a trial take me to trial

5:39 PM, Jim Marks wrote:

Oh my God you still don’t get it do you you just don’t get it. 99% of the property owners have no control over signage except where to locate it everything else is done by city permit. Why don’t you look up municipal codes why don’t you look up leases were signage is in question why don’t you dig a little bit before you just flap your mouth like you have you are so ignorant to the situation all you want to do is bitch about franchises you make your living about bitching about franchises your title of your website even says that my God I have known morons in my life and you don’t fall too far from the tree. Take your little website and have fun with it nobody reads it anyhow you’re just being a jack ass. So take your little drama about franchises and do your little thing and make your living and be real proud of yourself. Maybe I should go on your side and badmouth you and the way you handle situations because you don’t educate yourself before you put things out you’re guessing and you take one side of the story and blasted out there what an ignorant fool

6:14 PM, Jim Marks wrote:

You know here’s the funny part the franchise didn’t come after me the sign company that contacted me don’t come after me the property owner never came after me the only ones that are upset are the people who could run their business amazing how that happens



Should Wisconsin Businesses Boycott Fox Cities Sign & Jim Marks?

DICKEY’S Franchise Issues: Threats, Bullying & Churning of Franchisees

DICKEY’S BARBECUE PIT Closed Location List

DICKEY’S Franchise Graveyard




TAGS: Fox Cities Sign & Lighting, Jim Marks, Fox Cities Sign, Fox Cities Sign boycott, Fox Cities Sign complaints, Appleton Sign Company, Green Bay Sign Company, Wisconsin Sign Association, Wisconsin Sign Company, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit franchise, Jeff Gruber, Franchise, Northwest Signs, Northwest Signs complaints, unhappy franchisee

14 thoughts on “FOX CITIES SIGN & LIGHTING Jim Marks Defends Alleged Sign Theft

  • Super CIO of another big restaurant chain


    This guy is so full of it!

    Destroying other peoples properties is a crime and then he says he does it regularly? I don’t believe any of this crap.

  • anonymous

    This is a true, real situation.

  • First Hand Experience

    The focus of the story should be who dispatched Fox Cities Sign, it goes back to the franchiser. Its just another day at the office for this guy. Sorry he is not the white robed messiah but stay on target. What good does it do to go digging through his social media activity? You dig long enough anywhere you are going to hit something you don’t like.


    First Hand Experience:

    Thanks for commenting.

    Bad franchise companies rely on a whole mini-industry of paid accomplices and enablers such as the PR companies who promote their bogus success stories, phony paid awards-givers like Franchise Business Review & Fast Casual, publications like QSR, Dallas Morning News who continue to publish their propaganda and refuse to correct false information, and the attorneys and “reputation management” firms who are paid to suppress the truth so that people continue to bet their family home and finances on a lie.

    A reasonably rational and ethical sign company owner would have realized he made a mistake, that he was used, that he assumed this franchise company had the legal authority to do what they requested. He would at least PRETEND to have some compassion for the business owners. He would apologize for the role he played. He would offer to share what that company told him. But instead he attacks the victims, says they deserve it because their business wasn’t successful.

    I think the Facebook postings are an indication that Jim Marks cannot see things from a point-of-view other than his own. For a member of a yacht club to post a photo of homeless people as a cheap joke, and one who sells signs to restaurants to promote racial stereotypes and an urban legend that really does affect Asian businesses reveals at the very least a lack of good judgement and professionalism.

    I will gladly turn my focus on the signcompany that ellegedly hired him if Jim Marks will provide me with the documentation he claims he has. He hasn’t even shared whether they explicitly told him to avoid being seen by the sign owners, the property owners, neighbors or police, and or why they wanted the signs destroyed.

    Another day at the office? If someone from NY hires someone in your town to break your kneecaps, would you think the legbreaker was innocent because he was “under contract” and just doing his job?
    Jim Marks

  • First Hand Experience

    That is not an accurate comparison though. This is more kin to a car repo. I cant fault the tow company for doing their job and if they respond with anger after being questioned on why they did their job that is simply their personality. If the sign companies response to you is an indication of how he treats his customers and potential clients then he wont be around long enough for this kind of negative press to have an effect on him anyway.
    Would PRETEND sympathy solve anything here. He was being questioned, felt threatened, and shot from the hip. But to insinuate that he is a thug out breaking knee caps for the family back east is as far as you can jump when reaching a conclusion.

  • Anonymous

    First hand,

    This is not like a repo company, as the signs were not owned by the franchisor, or the company who contracted them. They were owned by the franchisee. If they are paid for, and the purpose was just to harm the franchisee then YOUR comparison is also not accurate.

    The sign company was asked to provide a work order and that is ALL. Mr Marks made his own bed by attacking the franchisee instead of just providing the information asked, then the problem would have been escaladed to to the larger company and onto the original Franchisor who requested it.

    You cannot go around removing signs just because you are paid to do so. You have to find out who actually owns the signs before removing and destroying signage. Maybe I should call another company and Pay them to remove Mr Marks signs. Why? Because I can afford too. Maybe take that into consideration before you open your mouth.

    Also, in Wisconsin and in the sign business in general there is a process that must be followed, Mr Marks did none of this therefore he opened himself up to liability


    First Hand Experience:

    Your car repo comparison is not valid. Cars can be repossessed because they are owned by the creditor, who paid for them. Both sides agree that if the payments aren’t met the finance company has the right to collect its collateral (the car) and keep the payments made. And still, there are procedures the company must follow for repossession.

    Dickey’s Barbecue did not own have any ownership claim to the signs. Neither did any intermediary company, nor did Fox Cities Sign. The franchise owners purchased those signs. If they had received financing for the $21,000 they paid for the signs, they are still on the hook for the payments. The franchise owners have a franchise agreement that explicitly states they must give the franchise company first right to BUY the signs at fair market value before they sell them to someone else… but they’re the franchisee’s property.

    If busting kneecaps is a little harsh, try this scenario.

    A better example might be if you took out a $21,000 loan to buy a car. Your bitter ex-wife or pissed off former employee hired Mr. Marks to steal it out of your driveway and have it immediately scrapped. You are out of a car and are still responsible for making the monthly payments. When you confront Mr. Marks he tells you he followed the contract in the correct order, then threatens to sue you for harassing him. He tells you it’s your own fault because you wouldn’t be in this mess if you didn’t piss off your ex-employee or ex-wife.

    Would you still write it off as Mr. Marks was just doing what he had to do to make his boat payments… it’s just all in a day’s work?

  • First Hand Experience

    You absolutely could pay a company to go remove Mr Marks signs, I invite that as a test of your hypothesis. Please post your findings here.

    My hypothesis is that Dickey’s has language in their franchise agreement allowing them take the action we are seeing here. Howe wrong that is and how sad it is that they would choose to do so is a better topic more worthy of attention than going after they guy who carried it out.

    This article read as someone attempting to defend a franchisee but ended up as a smear peace against another small business owner. How does that help? I see the other article discussing locals boycotting this sign company. How does that help the next franchisee who gets caught in this scenario? This is misdirected hostility and that is my issue with the article.

  • First Hand Experience

    A better comparison and I can see your point. I would certainty be upset. Upset or not as I alluded to in my previous response there is another item at play here and that is the franchiser. That is their logo depicted on the signs in question. Don’t take this to mean I support what happend and have no sympathy for the franchisee. This is another example of how they are treated in the Dickey’s world and its deplorable. Granted I am not a lawyer but I think Mr Marks is accurate in saying he is not in the wrong, legally speaking. You could have argued that he could have declined the job based on the circumstances surrounding the request but as he said, this is not the first time this type of request has come across his desk…another day at the office.


    Well, this is a franchise industry site run by someone with 30 years of experience in franchising. I can assure you this is not the norm – not even for Dickey’s. Prior to this it was Dickey’s practice to cover up signs so that their trademarks were not visible. Franchisees report that they had sign companies come to cover their signs with heavy canvas.

    It’s been reported that currently the sign company Jim Marks claims hired him has been contacting Dickey’s franchisees with closed locations and very politely asking them if they would like them to have their signs removed. Why? Because franchisors own the trademarks and the right to display them, but not the physical signs.

    See the original post. Without naming names, I posted what Marks and Fox Cities Sign did to the largest sign industry forum, Signs101.Com. None said this was an acceptable industry practice. Ones with sign removal experience all said they would never have taken a job under those circumstance, and that the destruction aspect was a huge red flag.

    I wouldn’t feel too bad for Jim Marks. He still has the dough he got paid to console him. And it sure doesn’t seem like his conscience is bothering him.


    I respect your opinion and appreciate your willingness to join the conversation.

    I care about franchise owners and stand up for them because not many others will. Dickey’s franchisees put their houses in jeopardy, their savings, their family’s financial health at risk because they believed in the representations the company made. They also believed that someone somewhere was regulating the industry. Turns out, no one is. The WI franchisees put it all on the line for Dickey’s and instead of coming to their assistance this franchisor attacked them, harassed them, bullied them, and told them to keep quiet.

    You are right, though. Initially, I thought Jim Marks just made a mistake thinking Dickey’s must have the right to do what it was looking to do. But after trying to reason with him and giving him every opportunity to do the right thing and at the very least apologize, I did come to the unfortunate conclusion that Jim Marks of Fox Cities sign is simply not a nice man.

    As long as Jim Marks and Fox Cities Sign of Menasha, WI are willing to take and destroy franchise owners signs for money, no questions asked, I think it’s important that franchisees and small business owners be aware of that danger. I think all Asian restaurant owners should have a look at his Facebook humor as well.

  • First Hand Experience

    Understood, he had his shot to defend himself and fumbled it. He may not be a nice man as well and if that is the case he will run himself out is business. What I know for a fact is that when a store closes, even temporarily, for any reason the question that is asked internally at Dickey’s is removal or covering? There are more cases of covering to be sure but removal does happen. Disposal of the signs would be the grey area i think. When removals happened the scope of work would include a period of storage. If that message was not conveyed through the chain of command to the guy putting boots on the ground then it is easy to see how this has upset the franchisee and has Mr Marks on the defensive. Not sure what the contract or FDD say on the matter but I also see that the new one is posted and I look forward to seeing what it says.

  • Anonymous

    The FDD for this particular franchisee states Dickeys is to make an offer to PURCHASE such signs, if a fair amount cannot be agreed upon, an appraiser at the franchisees cost will be assigned to appraise the sign. The signs must be purchased.

    There is only one other case of this happening to a franchisee, another case of the franchisee making Dickeys upset and them using it as a way to punish the franchisee.

    Again. All Mr Marks had to do was ask the owners (who he already knew owned the signs) what they wanted done with them, most people wouldn’t destroy such signage anyways as it has value. Or he should’ve offered up the work order and his hands would’ve been clean. Instead he rants and raves and acts like a child who lost their toy. Poor poor business practices.

  • Anonymous

    Please don’t let the new FDD fool
    You either. Feel free to print out the 2008 to current, you will notice the major changes, probably all based on things they’ve been sued for.

    Also, keep in mind this is ONLY up to May 31 2017 at least 15-20 other stores have closed since then if not more that have been covered up. The main reason Dickeys covers signs or removes them is nothing less then them trying to cover up failures. Because you know taking away the sign makes people forget it was ever there *insert eye roll*

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