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Carl’s Cuisine Rebrands As Willamette Valley Kitchen Co.

Brand recognition has always been the cornerstone of a flourishing business. If a logo, tagline or even store attributes are synonymous with correct identification, the business has made its way into the mainstream — either nationally or locally.

However, there are times in which changes are necessary. Amy Church, a chef and owner of Salem, OR-based Willamette Valley Kitchen Co., recently took a chance and decided that the time had come for her to re-brand her store.

In 2014, Church took over Carl’s Cuisine The Kitchen Store, a community staple since 1980. One year later, she decided the time had come to make a few changes. Church re-named the store and created a new logo that highlights her love of fresh strawberries. That eventual transfer, she said, was one that would showcase her own connection to the store as well as the customers that frequent it.

“The store was previously named Carl’s Cuisine after one of the previous owners, Carl Meisel. He was strongly connected with the brand, as the store actually began as a small private cooking school run by him. So, it was very important for me to eventually re-brand to transfer that personal connection between the owner and the customers and students,” she told GOURMET INSIDER®.

Church also said that the name was confusing to new patrons who were asking questions about the origin of the name. “We had a pretty steady stream of new customers coming in and asking, ‘Where’s Carl?’ or ‘Who’s Carl?’ so we wanted to move away from those questions,” she noted.

Her decision to re-brand the store wasn’t an easy one, she noted. With three decades of being known as Carl’s Cuisine in the books, Church had to find a way to ensure that customers knew what was happening and that they wouldn’t be off-put by such a noticeable change at the retail location.

“I put out feelers with our most loyal customers way in advance of the name change, asking them how they would feel about the idea and even asking them for advice about the new name,” Church explained.

But, when it was settled and the time had come to execute, Church didn’t rest on her laurels, flipping the store in just one day. She then hosted a week-long grand re-opening celebration to get customers old and new acquainted with the new brand.

“In one day, we completely re-did the store signage and had a big story in the local section of the newspaper,” she said. “We had a grand re-opening week with raffle tickets sold to benefit our local food bank. We had a private party for our most loyal customers at the end of the week and we also passed out thousands of magnetic fridge grocery lists with our new logo and contact information,” she said.

Additionally, Church explained that the company launched a brand new website at the same time to ensure that the brand messaging was consistent from all angles. The store’s social media pages were also changed to include the new name.

“The store has been in business for more than 30 years, so the main challenge was simply getting the word out and making sure all of our loyal customer base recognized and felt comfortable with the change,” said Church. “In every ad we’ve run, and every time I’ve been quoted in the local newspaper, I’ve made sure to be consistent with the message that we have the same location, same great service, same knowledgeable staff, just a new name. I’ve been repeating that message over and over.”

To others looking to re-brand their stores, Church explained that taking it slow and harnessing the power of a transition period can make all the difference. “My advice would be to make gradual changes, followed by a huge blitz. I kept the name the same for more than a year after I purchased the store. The previous owner continued to teach occasional classes in the cooking school, and we co-taught some classes so our customers would get used to the idea of me being the new owner. The response so far has been very positive,” she said.

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