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In Pictures: Can a shop called 'Rhonda' be on-trend? In Yorkville?

Pat Gillespie is torn between building on store's legacy or rebranding with a younger, fresher name

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Pat Gillespie recently bought Rhonda Maternity, a shop in Toronto’s tony Yorkville area. Ms. Gillespie is a fashion designer who bought the store from its namesake, Rhonda Flomen, who opened it in 1971. Now Ms. Gillespie wants to put her own stamp on the place, and she’s wondering whether she should rename it. She notes that the current name likely carries some weight with its customers after more than 40 years in business.

Jennifer Roberts/The Globe and Mail

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Rhonda Maternity targets mostly first-time moms-to-be who are concerned with projecting a professional image at work, but the shop also offers dressy and casual wear. Most new customers come from word-of-mouth referrals or Google searches. However, the store occasionally welcomes repeat and even next generation customers.

Jennifer Roberts/The Globe and Mail

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Pat Gillespie assists customer Michaela Hoferica in her newly acquired store, Rhonda Maternity, in Toronto. While Ms. Gillespie plans to add new clothing lines and freshen the decor, graphics and website, she’s torn between keeping the Rhonda name, building on its legacy and known location, or rebranding with a younger, fresher name.

Jennifer Roberts/The Globe and Mail

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Ms. Gillespie’s biggest worry is that the name Rhonda sounds as dated as the Beach Boys’ song Help Me, Rhonda from the mid-1960s. Rhonda is no longer a popular name for baby girls and “doesn’t have a cool retro vibe,” she says.

Jennifer Roberts/The Globe and Mail

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If Ms. Gillespie changes the name, the store would become Carry, the same name she plans for her new private maternity label. However, with a $30,000 budget for her relaunch, there isn’t much money to rebrand. “No matter what the name, I’ve got lots to invest in sweat equity,” she says.

Jennifer Roberts/The Globe and Mail

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The experts are split on whether Ms. Gillespie should change the store’s name. One suggests keeping it and doing a refresh with a new logo, typeface and graphics. Another points out that maternity-wear customers likely visit this store once or twice, maybe three times in their lives. “You don’t have repeat customers that you’re trying to create a long-term association with,” says Tony Smith, vice-president and creative director at Hudson’s Bay Co., who votes for changing the name. Sorry, Rhonda.

Jennifer Roberts/The Globe and Mail

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