Local firm names vary wildly
GREENFIELD — What’s in a name?
Many Franklin County business owners have original, unusual names for
their businesses. But asking if they think the names have helped or hurt
is like asking a protective parent if they think they harmed a child by
naming him or her “Sunflower.”
Take “A Bottle of Bread,” which
was a very popular Shelburne Falls restaurant near the Bridge of
Flowers. When it opened, the owners said the phrase was from a Bob Dylan
song, “Yea Heavy and a Bottle of Bread,” and from a French baker, who
referred to his style of bread as “solid beer.” The name was intended to
suggest pub fare, which is what the restaurant started with.
Though people wondered what the name meant, it apparently didn’t stop
anyone from coming. And the waterfront pub’s local patrons even found a
nickname for the place: “BOB’s,” (Bottle of Bread), as in, “I’ll meet
you at Bob’s.”
“Tofu A Go-Go,” which was on Main Street, offered
much more vegetarian food than just tofu. But when asked if she thought
the name hurt her business, owner Star Chicaderis explained that the
name “goes back a long way and has had a tremendous reputation.”
When Chicaderis took over a vegetarian restaurant in Provincetown on
Cape Cod in 1998, she changed the name to something that would signify
vegetarian offerings, she said. One day she sketched two dancing chefs,
which gave her the idea for the name “Tofu A Go-Go!” Next to the name
was the explanation: “Vegetarian, Vegan, Macrobiotic.”
Chicaderis bought a house in Greenfield and ran her vegan restaurant on
Main Street from 2007 to 2009. She still has a home in Greenfield, she
said, but she’s back in Provincetown, operating a take-out lunch
business, called “To Go-Go,” at the Bradford Natural Foods market, while
she writes a cookbook. “I still own the name, and it’s going to be on
the cookbook,” she said.
Zemi, in Greenfield, is a shop that
offers gift items, clothing, jewelry, self-help books and meditation
supplies. Before it opened, store owner Maija Meijers says she thought
long about the store name and even prayed for an answer for naming the
“Later that night, in a dream, I heard the word Zemi,”
she said. Meijers said she looked it up in a large unabridged
dictionary, and found that a zemi was “an object filled with spirit,”
and that the word came from a tribal language.
“That name seemed
totally appropriate for the shop,” said Meijers. She says that over the
years, some customers have asked what the name stood for. “As far as
doing the business good or bad, who knows? From our small human
perspective, how can we really tell what is helping or hindering?”
The name “Wandering Moon” occurred to store owners Laura and David
Roberson in the days when they traveled a lot, selling crafts and goods
at Renaissance fairs and reenactments. Their 17-year-old Shelburne Falls
store sells handcrafted goods, jewelry and books.
“We came up
with that originally when we were traveling merchants,” explained Laura
Roberson. “We traveled on the road a lot and we would watch the moon,
because we were on the road so much.” They named their Shelburne Falls
gift shop Wandering Moon, and have heard compliments on the name from
customers, she said.
Later, customers pointed out that
Shakespeare used the phrase “swifter than the wandering moon” in “A
Midsummer’s Night’s Dream.” “So there’s a literary tie, also,” she said.
“Most people name their business after something they really
like,” says Lyne Kendall, senior financial adviser of the
Massachusetts Small Business Development Center. The development
center is based in Amherst but offers local business consultation
through the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce and other chambers.
“Let’s say, I really like “Amethyst” and I run a party store, so I’m
going to name my business Amethyst,” says Kendall. “What does that name
say about my business?”
One common mistake, she said, is to name
a business using one’s initials. “Only one in a million businesses can
be named IBM,” she said. “If I call my business ‘LJK and Associates’,
will people know what I do? You want to draw people to you.” Kendall
said one way to tell if a business name is working is to find out if
people remember it.
She said “cutesy names” don’t usually work,
but there are exceptions. For instance, in Boston, a company called “Deathwish
Piano Movers” has done well for 40 years. Another name Kendall likes is
a computer technical service in Hadley, called “the Nerd Herd.” She says
the name is cute, but it also alludes to computer technology.
long time ago, an ice cream shop in Bernardston was named “Calories.”
When asked, was that a good name or a bad name, Kendall laughed.
“I love that name,” she said. “That, to me, is one in a million. I
think it is a clever name.”
But she also wondered if it would be
as effective in today’s diet-conscious era.
“What you name your
business creates an identity for it,” she says, for better or for worse.