The Moniz family in Quebec is in the process of opening a second small Zellers-branded store in Sorel-Tracy, Quebec, after registering a trademark for the Zellers name earlier this year. The Hudson’s Bay Company, which let the trademark for the Zellers name lapse last year, is fighting back with litigation saying that it has the rights to Zellers after opening a pop-up in Burlington over the summer.
The second Zellers-branded store will open soon at 60 Hotel-Dieu in Sorel-Tracy. Construction has been ongoing for weeks in a retail space formerly occupied by a book store, and one local sent Retail Insider a photo showing a Zellers-branded trailer outside of the new store. The Moniz family says that it is waiting for permits prior to opening the Zellers store in the coming days even although the municipality says nothing has been filed and that the building has to be demolished. In April of this year, they opened a Zellers Express store on Augusta Street in Sorel-Tracy and oddly, there’s very little information online about where it is located or that it even exists.
This follows at least one member of the Moniz family going after the Hudson’s Bay Company last year by registering the name Kmart in Canada — the Hudson’s Bay Company bought Kmart’s Canadian operations in 1998 and converted most stores to Zellers banners. The Moniz-owned Kmart store is now operational at 62 Rue Augusta, and again there is little information online about the store and its operations.
The Hudson’s Bay Company recently got wind of the Moniz family’s efforts to take over the Zellers name. On October 5th, the Hudson’s Bay Company filed a Statement of Claim in the Federal Court of Canada naming Defendants: Manuel Moniz, Maria Almerinda Moniz Sousa, Robert Moniz, Carlos Moniz, Zellers Canada Inc., Zellers Convenience Store Inc., Zellers Holdings Inc., Zellers Inc., and Zellers Restaurant Inc.
Retail Insider reached out to the Hudson’s Bay Company which provided the following statement about the situation: “To protect its ZELLERS brand and avoid consumer confusion, HBC has filed a claim in the Federal Court of Canada for passing off, trademark infringement and depreciation of goodwill. The allegations in the claim relate to planned unauthorized third-party ZELLERS stores, among other unauthorized uses of the ZELLERS brand. HBC intends to pursue this claim vigorously.”
The statement follows Retail Insider’s report last month that HBC had opened a Zellers pop-up store within the Hudson’s Bay department store at the Burlington Centre mall near Toronto — we were the first to report on the pop-up that had already operated for about two months prior. A Zellers pop-up will next be opening at the Hudson’s Bay store at CF Galleries d’Anjou in Montreal according to an HBC representative, and other Zellers pop-ups could open inside of Hudson’s Bay stores the future.
The Hudson’s Bay Company’s trademark for the Zellers name expired September 24, 2020 and it was subsequently registered by the Moniz family in 2021. Toronto-based intellectual property lawyer Anjli Patel noted that HBC should have received notice that its trademark for Zellers was set to expire prior to its expiry.
Cast of Characters: The Moniz Family
Several members of the Moniz family are involved with the new Zellers operations after registering the Zellers trademark including the logo many Canadians are familiar with. At least one of the family members has what has been reported as being something of a shady past that includes charges of mortgage fraud and car theft.
Under Hudson’s Bay ownership, Zellers was headquartered in Brampton Ontario until the chain as we knew it was shut down in 2013. The new Moniz-operated Zellers business appears to be headquartered in Prince Edward Island, while a restaurant subsidiary is based in Quebec.
Zellers Holdings Inc. was registered on June 11, 2021 and is headquartered in what appears to be a farm house named ‘Blue Lobster’ in Kensington, Prince Edward Island. Zellers Holdings Inc. has four directors: Manuel Moniz, Maria Almerinda Moniz Sousa, Robert Moniz and Carlos Moniz. Manuel and Maria have addresses listed in Laval, Quebec. Robert’s address is in Auclair, Quebec, and Carlos Moniz’s address is in Sorel-Tracy.
Zellers Restaurant Inc. was registered on September 6, 2021, and has an address of a mobile home in La Trinité-des-Monts Quebec. Maria Moniz Sousa is listed as the director of Zellers Restaurant Inc.
It appears that Manuel and Maria could be spouses, given that they share the same residential address and also once owned a company called Maria & Manuel Import Export Inc. — Manuel has had several other companies according to corporate registry records.
Robert Moniz may be the best known of the family members mentioned above given accusations of mortgage fraud laid against him in 2010. Robert was charged with mortgage fraud totalling more than $5 million — the then 37 year old faced 53 charges, including fraud, forgery and uttering forged documents. Robert Moniz is alleged to have persuaded victims to lend him their names to help him buy properties in the Montreal and Laval areas in return for several thousand dollars and a promise that he could boost their credit ratings, according to an article in the CBC. Robert was also arrested in early 2010 in a stolen Mercedes in Belleville, Ontario.
Both Carlos Moniz and brother Robert were involved in a plan to open a strip club in the former Doc’s Palace on Station Street in Belleville, which saw news coverage given that some were against the plans more than a decade ago.
Maria Moniz Sousa is also listed as being sole director of Kmart Canada which was registered in May of 2020. The headquarters for Kmart Canada is listed with a registered office in La Trinité-des-Monts — and the address for Kmart Canada is the same mobile home as the new headquarters for Zellers Restaurant Inc.
Retail Insider was unable to get a hold of Maria by press time for an interview after repeated phone call attempts to a listed phone number for Zellers in Sorel-Tracy. For more than a week we attempted to speak to her after an unidentified family member provided us with information on the progress of their Zellers expansion in two phone calls.
Lawyer Anjli Patel said she was surprised that HBC had let the Zellers trademark lapse and noted that it may be challenging to get it back although the retailer did in fact operate Zellers stores across Canada for decades. HBC launched a Zellers pop-up over the summer in Burlington and will launch at least one more in Quebec, indicating the fact that HBC is intending to continue utilizing the Zellers name which it once owned without dispute.
The Hudson’s Bay Company itself filed for a new trademark application for the Zellers name on June 30 of this year, indicating its intent to maintain domain over the trademark. HBC also filed a lawsuit in the Federal Court against the Moniz family and their Zellers-branded entities as noted above.
The Moniz trademark application as well as the subsequent registration by HBC for the Zellers name are both in progress, and have not yet been assigned to government examiners as of press time. That means that litigation may be required to settle the dispute between HBC and the Moniz-owned Zellers entity which could result in the end of the small-format Zellers stores in Sorel-Tracy as well as any future expansion plans by the Moniz family.
We’ll follow up this unusual story as it develops.