Sept. 22--Similar business names can cause confusion.
The name and logo of a business serves as the face to the community, so having a doppelganger can cause confusion.
Matthew Keeler, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of State, said all businesses operating in the state should be registered with the state.
And prospective business owners can work with the state to run names through its database to make sure the name of a business doesn't repeat. But they can still be similar, which can at times invite confusion for consumers or frustration for business owners.
"For example, you could have Mike's Bike Sales Inc. and Mike's Bike Sales LLC," he said.
Or you can have Family Dollar, Dollar General or Dollar Tree.
Another local name confusion comes from Penn National Gaming Inc., Wyomissing, and National Penn Bancshares Inc., Boyertown. The first is a nationwide casino operator, and the second is a local bank.
Or there's Mama's Pizza and Grill and Mama's Pizza.
When Brent Sharp purchased a pizza shop in Spring Township with Alex Gruber, they inherited the Mama's Pizza name. When they decided to open a second pizza shop in Wyomissing, they decided to undergo a rebranding effort. They changed the name to Mama's Pizza and Grill and adopted a new logo.
But that name and logo was the same as the Mama's Pizza and Grill with locations in Reading, Kenhorst and Pottsville.
The pizza business changed the name again, to The Original Mamas Pizza, and created a new logo.
"People will come in here, then go there, and come back, and ask why it's not all the same," Sharp said. "It got frustrating at times."
Ramon Collado, owner of Mama's Pizza and Grill, said sometimes people will call to pick up a pizza at one place, then show up to another, including the other business or one of the other Mama's Pizza and Grills.
As time as passed, both owners said, the community has been able to differentiate the two businesses.
There isn't an easy formula to picking a business name, said Ernie Post, director of Kutztown University's Small Business Development Center, but it should receive significant attention.
"You should give naming a business the same level of attention as naming your child," Post said.
Some factors to consider include how it fits the theme of the business, how the combination of words sound, how it's pronounced and whether it clears legal hurdles, Post said.
Business owners can work with the state and visit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website to make sure owners don't run the risk of receiving a cease-and-desist order.
Post said you want to avoid confusion in the marketplace, pointing to the name Wegman's as one example.
However, the families didn't know they would cross paths when they named their businesses when they started in the early 1900s.
The distantly related Wegmans have a friendly family feud over the name of their food-service businesses, Wegman's Deli and Catering and Wegman's Food Markets. The catering service has locations in Douglassville and Pottstown, and the supermarket started in Rochester, N.Y., before expanding to more than 80 locations in the Mid-Atlantic region, according to company records.
Michele Hubert, office manager at Wegman's Deli and Catering, sometimes responds to up to 10 phone calls a week from people asking for Wegman's Food Markets business hours and emails trying to set up a catering event with the expectation of the grocery store's food.
"They're not a threat, just an inconvenience," said Hubert, whose maiden name is Wegman.
Post said it's not often that someone changes a name -- a process that would require going through the registration process and branding again -- so it's important to think through a business name before investing money into it.
"Any time you're causing confusion for customers isn't a good thing," he said.
Contact Amy Friedenberger: 610-371-5066 or email@example.com.