How Do You Name a Store? Gingerly.

What's in a name? For a clothing retailer, a lot. Sure, retailing is about location and hard work, but it's also about image.

Gretchen Hitchner spent months thinking about the name for her soon-to-open women's boutique, which will be located in Bethesda Row.

She had opened a similar spot in Alexandria, Va., with a partner, and prior to opening they brainstormed to come up with a name they were proud of -- Periwinkle.

"It was a color. It was a flower," Hitchner said. "Right away you knew that we sold women's clothing. My husband said, 'No way would I go into a store called Periwinkle,' and I thought 'perfect.'"

Upon leaving the partnership to open her new store, Hitchner couldn't take the Periwinkle name with her. So like many small business managers, she fretted over what to call her boutique. And unlike last time, she was naming this one on her own.

The new store will cater to the professional, fashionable women who made the first shop successful by snapping up the elegant, hip designer styles that Hitchner purchases largely in New York City. Her new eco-friendly boutique, replete with bamboo floors, will include a line of organically inclined designers like Stewart + Brown , Ciel and Loomstate.

Hitchner turned to family and friends, as well as the Internet for help finding a name.

She tried using the online encyclopedia Wikipedia to research a color and review its definition and associations. She also searched Wikipedia for the history of fashion items, like the classic Mary Jane shoes. But her girlfriends advised her that it could invoke the wrong image for the women's boutique.

"Everyone brings their own meaning and history to a name," noted Hitchner. "Somebody would criticize or tell a story about a potential name and it would really turn me off, but I also was opening myself up to some completely random interpretations."

After five months of deliberate thought on the issue, she said the final decision was similar to how she chose a name for her 10-month-old daughter.

"We knew we were having a girl. I had about 10 names picked out, then the night before I was induced I had two names ready but I just couldn't decide. My husband John finally said 'flip a coin" and I said I just couldn't flip a coin over the name of my daughter." And so Annie Claire, who is called by her first and middle name, came into the world.

For the store, Hitchner whittled down her list to two names as well.

She settled on "Nectar" and turned to her family for final approval. Her brother Mark and his wife Aimee liked it. They are helping her set-up the Maryland store and are opening a companion boutique in their Winter Park, Fla., neighborhood, which will be run by Aimee. The Florida location is scheduled to open in October and the Bethesda shop is scheduled to open in January 2008. The partners also plan to open an e-commerce site, which should be fully operational in October.

After running the name by her business partners, Hitchner then turned to her mother, who has been a source of inspiration in the past. Her mom said, "Do you want to know what I really think about Nectar? It makes me think of childbirth." And she didn't mean in a good way.

A week later, Hitchner decided on Ginger. "When my mom asked me if I wanted to know her opinion about that name, I said 'no'."

She polled some of her girlfriends about the name; some liked it and some didn't. "My girlfriends and family played a large part in the naming process."

And inadvertently, so did her daughter, whose blonde locks suddenly turned a vibrant reddish brown, a ginger color in fact.

"I think that's a good sign," said Hitchner.

By Sharon McLoone |  August 6, 2007; 6:00 AM ET Profiles in Entrepreneurship
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wow! what a great story. i love the name!

Posted by: Tina Nolan | August 6, 2007 9:04 PM

This is great. We need a store like this over in Bethesda Row.

Posted by: Chandra Snave | August 6, 2007 9:06 PM

What a great story and name! I'm looking forward to seeing the Winter Park location.

Posted by: Karen Nemence | August 10, 2007 10:52 AM

I will travel from Dallas to Winter Park to visit this great concept of a boutique! I look forward to the website as well.

Posted by: Stephanie Robinson | August 10, 2007 11:04 AM

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