A Store by Any Other Name

By Joe Romano, 
Marketing Manager

oasis-store-frontWhat's in a name? 
That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

— William Shakespeare

A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.

— Gertrude Stein

A kilogram by any other name would weigh as much.

— Bill Nye

In the play "Romeo and Juliet," Juliet uses the logic that Romeo's family name should mean nothing, that their names should not keep them apart if their love is true. We know how badly that ended — names do matter. They have distinct meanings of their own that impart context, history, emotion, distinction, intent, and more, to places, objects, organizations, and people.

For the ten years of its existence, our community has called GreenStar's Dewitt Mall location by the name it was called previously, and though its official name is currently "GreenStar Oasis," most people simply call it Oasis, a throwback to when it was Oasis Natural Foods.

Now that we're celebrating the tenth anniversary of the store with a new Store Manager, as well as a planned reset, it's time both to recount the history of this name and perhaps to make a little of our own. First, the history of the store we call "Oasis."

The General Manager at the time, Patrice Jennings, tells the tale in "Cooperative Grocer" magazine: "In the spring of 2003, one of Ithaca's long-time, locally owned businesses appeared to be in trouble. Oasis Natural Grocery, owned by a partnership of individuals, was displaying signs in their front windows encouraging people to shop with them if they didn't want to see Oasis disappear. ... GreenStar and Oasis had long enjoyed a supportive relationship ... and the Oasis partners and GreenStar managers frequently shared information about supplier and product issues."

Soon it became clear that the business would simply close if no one stepped in to help.

In early 2004, GreenStar member-owners voted overwhelmingly to rescue Oasis Natural Foods, and GreenStar's managers worked quickly to re-open the store by May of that year.

Patrice instructed her marketing staff to develop a process to name the new store. Though almost 200 suggestions were made, most were meant to be funny or were simply unusable. (The "Happy Hippy-Dippy Hut" springs to mind.)

At Patrice's request, the list was winnowed to six by a panel of outside co-op marketing experts, who each added the warning that while they understood that we had already committed to this process, the "best practice" would be for the store to simply be called "GreenStar."

Council further reduced the list to three, and our member-owners chose "GreenStar Oasis." It seemed like a workable compromise.

Most people simply continued to call it Oasis. And that is where the problem lies. Lauree Myler, our current "Oasis" Store Manager, has worked at the store for years, and she's concerned about the name and branding as it currently stands. Lauree says, "There have been many instances in which customers and member-owners of the Co-op have been surprised upon learning that the Dewitt Mall location is part of GreenStar Co-op; the same has occurred in communications with suppliers. As the Co-op continues to explore expansion and development of additional stores, it will be beneficial to have a consistent naming scheme that minimizes confusion for vendors, employees, member-owners and customers."

Add to this that now there's a nightspot named Oasis in town — Lauree says her staff fields several calls a day from people looking for the dance club.

The problem is compounded by the fact that soon GreenStar could have another store, in Collegetown. The best practice that the co-op consultants were speaking of was to name all stores for your co-op, and to differentiate them by adding their location, which helps customers to know where in your community your stores can be found.

For example, Outpost Co-op in Minneapolis uses their name for all their stores and adds "Mequon," "Minneapolis," "Wauwatosa," and "Bay View," for the geographic locations where those stores are located. Similarly, PCC in the Northwest has 10 locations, all of which are named PCC and distinguished by place. Of the 142 National Cooperative Grocer Association (NCGA) stores, none of the co-ops with more than one location have named their additional stores anything different. In fact, on their website, the NCGA has us listed like everyone else, using GreenStar Natural Foods Market (West End) and GreenStar Natural Foods Market (Oasis), as if Oasis were a location — which, of course, it is not. The name indicates nothing about the store beyond what the business that was there ten years ago was called!

For all of these reasons, the store's manager and staff, along with GreenStar's other managers, the Area Supervisors, have asked GreenStar's Council for permission to simply name the store GreenStar Natural Foods Market, and have it distinguished by its location (DeWitt Mall) as is the West-End store.

Ultimately, we want people to know where our stores are, and that they are called GreenStar, part of a growing, thriving, and successful cooperative business that started in someone's kitchen and evolved into a multivalent cooperative with several stores, a community space, new classrooms, a non-profit affiliate, and more on the way — all GreenStar and all working toward the good of the community that started it.

Council addressed the issue at its last meeting and had no objection as long as an article was written in GreenLeaf (the article that you're now reading), and they asked that staff also provide opportunity for commenting in the stores. As a result, there will be notebooks at both stores where member-owners can leave their thoughts about the change if they wish.

We hope our community appreciates having GreenStar in their neighborhood, and we hope that pride extends to the name GreenStar, as well.

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