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What's in a name, anyway?

A year after we started our first pizza shop, we signed a lease on another. We never expected it to happen so fast. When we chose the name “Gaines Street Pies” it was the perfect fit. This was the street we grew up; this was our neighborhood, our home away from home.

When we decided to expand to Midtown, the first question we received was “What are you going to call it?” Conventional wisdom is to keep the same name and build your brand. We decided to avoid confusion of location and call it “Midtown Pies.” With a varied menu, different decor we set out to brand this location to fit the neighborhood. In a lot of ways, a Pizza shop is like a coffee shop. It’s character is unique to it’s neighborhood.

After a year in Midtown, we knew we created something special. We used the opportunity to launch “Northside Pies.” At this point people started to catch on. “It’s the area followed by ‘Pies’” a friend explained. Hank.fm coined us the ‘Pie Guys’. We were the only pizzeria in town using the “Pies” moniker-- in fact, many disappointed customers came in during our early years looking for baked apple and blueberry desserts.

Gaines Street Pies is a brand. Midtown Pies is a brand. Northside Pies is a brand. Three brands, one concept, synonymous with delicious pizza.

And then I received a text message “Did you open a location in the campus union?” No… and then another text. And a phone call. And a tag on social media. We’re the “Pie Guys.” If the place has a location followed by “Pies,” people assume it to be us. This University food court knew exactly what they were doing when they booted a national chain and attempted to capitalize on our namesake and infringe on our trademark. After all, their mark created a “likeliness of confusion” in the people that contacted me. Coincidentally, in what feels like a lifetime ago, I was arrested in Gainesville selling t-shirts that the school alleged to be a violation of their trademark. I disagreed, the consumers disagreed and I’m assuming the state disagreed as they dropped all of the charges. Now, I don’t have the power to march into their restaurant and demand arrests and I’m not particularly in a rush to litigate.

But the question remains, “What’s in a name?” The truth is evident. It’s more than your concept. It’s more than people recognizing your work by a similar theme. It’s a unique identifier. This is why our new location coming to Capital Circle N.E. will be named “Gaines Street Pies” East. We’ve already heard the chorus of “Why not Eastside Pies!?” and the truth is “Gaines Street Pies” is who we are. It’s our name. When we open in February, I hope you’ll stop by so we can learn yours.