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What’s in a (business) name? Plenty it turns out

The owners of Two Crackers Grocery Company in Kiln hear plenty of cracks about their store’s name, but people do remember it. What’s in a name? Plenty for a business because the name proclaims an image and what kind of business it is. A clever name can be a drawing card, but Mississippi College (MC) marketing professor Dr. Lawrence Silver cautions that balance is important.

“The most important things is for a business name to convey a message — whatever message fits the business,” he said. “You don’t want the name so cute that people don’t know what kind of business you are.”

Business names can be confusing. He mentioned Trios Restaurant in Ridgeland. The name sounds Mexican, but it’s actually the purveyor of excellent Greek food. Bravo!, on the other hand, immediately let’s diners know to expect Italian food.

Silver says there’s a lot of literature on the subject for business owners to consult. “Naming a business is something you have to put a lot of thought into and I encourage anyone to be careful. It needs to be catchy and memorable if that’s appropriate. For some types of businesses, you may want to simply state what it is.”

He says a large corporation with a massive marketing budget can afford to go with a bland name like the financial services company ING. Some even choose such a name purposely.

“Most small businesses don’t have big budgets to spend on educating people about who they are and what they do,” he said.

The professor, who’s taught at MC in Clinton for four years, has had personal experience with business name confusion. Before coming to Mississippi, he owned The Silver Agency in a small Louisiana town where he’d lived all his life. He thought people would recognize the last name.

“I should have had the word ‘insurance’ in the name because people didn’t know what I sold,” he said, “and I got calls asking if I sold silver.”

One year ago, Two Crackers Grocery Co. owners, Jason Hamilton and Berry Necaise, both 36, took over an existing convenience store/gas station that has been around since 1994 under several different owners and names.

Hamilton explains the background of the unusual name. “We had to change the name to get recognition and attention of taking over an existing store,” he said. “What do you get with a salad? Crackers. How many crackers are in a pack? Two.”

They handed out packs of crackers to everyone who came into the store for the first two months they were in business. “We get a lot of comments on the name,” he said. “They remember us.”

Two Crackers Grocery is also odd for another reason. The store is located in Necaise Crossing, just south of the intersection of Highways 53 and 603, and has a post office box in Kiln. That’s Hancock County. Yet the telephone number is a Pass Christian (Harrison County) number and the phone book lists the store in Perkinston (Stone County).

There are many things the partners want to do to improve their small store. They are working to add a fresh meat department. Hamilton has the right background for such a venture. He worked for his dad, Howard Hamilton, who until recently owned and operated four Choice supermarkets on the Gulf Coast.

“It’s totally different on this side of the business,” Jason Hamilton said. “Now I’m having to do things I didn’t do before, like payroll and taxes.”

In downtown Ocean Springs, Two Dogs Dancing is also a memorable business. The store, which sells items for dogs and cats, opened at a temporary location in October 2003 and has been at its permanent location on Washington Avenue since January 2004.

Owner Mickie Miller says she gets a lot of comments on the shop’s name. Here’s how she thought of it. “I was wracking my brain for something unique,” she said. “This name came to me one night when I got home and my two little dogs were so glad to see me. They were jumping up and dancing around.”

Miller’s dogs are Dachshunds and one of them even goes to work with her at Two Dogs Dancing. She said she decided to open it because she loves dogs and spoiling them, and there was nothing like the shop in the area. While the name Two Dogs Dancing conveys an image of pets, it could also mean dancing.

Miller says she sometimes gets calls from telemarketers looking for dance studios or a shop selling dancing gear.

The shop sells pet carriers, lookout car seats for pets, clothing for small dogs, gourmet treats, toys, bowls and much more. “It’s a tiny store, but we have a lot of stuff,” she said.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at mbj@msbusiness.com.


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