Making a Name for Itself


Surviving an 18-year battle that ripped apart a family, Adray’s appliance and electronics store has regained the right to use its name throughout Southern California.

Adray’s in Orange now plans its first metropolitan-area advertising campaign in years, and it won’t be facing competition from a chain that had operated under the same name in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

The Adray family settled its trademark infringement lawsuit against nemesis Adry-Mart Inc., the Van Nuys company that at one time operated 10 Adray’s stores and now is out of business.


“We’ve got the name back,” said Lou Adray, owner of Adray’s in Orange. “They’re out of our hair totally. It’s a relief.”

Adry-Mart, which was not an Adray family company, had used the Adray name and taken business away from the store in Orange, he said. Court-ordered restrictions on advertising also had hindered his operation.

But the future, Adray said, holds “no more roadblocks, no more distractions.”

It helped, of course, that Adry-Mart succumbed to competitive pressures, closing half its stores a year ago and shutting down the rest last fall.

“The settlement of the Lou Adray lawsuit was just part of taking care of all obligations in winding up the business,” said Adry-Mart’s lawyer, Barry H. Lawrence of Los Angeles.

As part of the settlement, Adray’s acquired Adry-Mart’s customer list and many customer telephone numbers. Now Lou Adray, 63, and sons Michael, 35, and Marc, 29, are working to repair years of confusion among their customers.

“We used to get an average of 50 calls a week from customers who were confused about the different stores,” Michael Adray said.


“People would come into our store carrying Adray’s ads” about an Adry-Mart sale, he said, “even though the ad used the court-ordered disclaimer saying that it was not affiliated with Adray’s in Orange.”

Over the course of two decades--even before the court’s 1992 advertising restrictions--customers had problems distinguishing the two stores, Lou Adray said.

Some who worked near an Adry-Mart store in Los Angeles County but lived near the Orange store would buy from one and try to get a refund or exchange from the other. Complicating matters, Adry-Mart and Adray’s in Orange often carried different products.

Adray said that neither long-time competitor Circuit City nor the Good Guys, both of which have stores nearby, have hurt sales as much as Adry-Mart and the confusion generated by the separate operations.

That such a battle over the Adray’s name lasted as long as it did, including seven years in court, astounds patent and trademark lawyers, who say business concerns typically dictate quick settlements.

But the Adray’s battle had roots in a family that did business a little differently. At one time in the 1960s, four brothers owned separate Adray’s appliance and electronics stores, three of them in Southern California.



Mike Adray opened the first store in the early 1950s in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn. After his death, his daughter took over and still operates the store.

The others moved to Los Angeles, with Andy opening a store in Los Angeles in 1965, Sam setting up shop in Van Nuys a year later, and Andy and a cousin opening the Orange store in 1967. Lou moved here in 1968 and bought out Andy’s share of the Orange store. Later, Lou bought out the cousin’s share.

Though the California stores were separately owned, the brothers helped each other in buying supplies and in servicing customers, Lou Adray said. They cut their expenses, for instance, by buying from suppliers as a group. When customers bought from one store and sought exchanges at another, they usually cooperated in making the trades.

“We accommodated each other,” Adray said.

But Sam and then Andy closed their stores, and Lou had the name to himself for two years. Then he decided to help Andy’s son, Richard, open a store in 1976 on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. Lou provided credit guarantees to suppliers for a while.


Three years later, however, Richard decided to sell to a group of investors who created Adry-Mart. In the draft contract he received, Lou Adray said he learned that the buyer would be phasing out the Adray name. But, unknown to the Orange County Adrays, the final contract gave the new company the right to use the name in the northern half of Los Angeles County and farther north.

“I should have sued then,” Lou Adray said, “but Richard kept telling me he’d take care of it.”


Richard Adray was not available for comment.

As relations worsened, Richard Adray finally sued Adry-Mart in 1987, alleging Adry-Mart’s advertising was targeting southern Los Angeles County residents in violation of the sale contract. The suit was settled, but its terms remained secret.

“We didn’t even know the suit was settled until we sued” in April 1990, Michael Adray said. By then, Lou’s family and Andy’s family weren’t talking with each other.

A jury in 1992 ruled in Adry-Mart’s favor, but the judge issued an injunction that designated each company’s market, restricted advertising to mostly those markets and required disclaimers in overlapping areas. Lou Adray was given the Orange County market.

Lou Adray appealed and won a reversal of the jury verdict in 1994. The case was about to be retried when Adry-Mart sought the settlement recently.

“At this point, since we are closing the business, it made sense to settle with Lou,” said Lawrence, the Adry-Mart lawyer. “We didn’t need the name.”

Adry-Mart owners are pursuing other retail ventures or possibly the import-export business, possibly using the Adry-Mart name, he said.


Although the dispute has ended, the Adrays acknowledge that they still must deal with confused customers who thought that they went out of business.

That perception is presenting a challenge in their upcoming advertising effort.

“We can’t say we’re back because we never left,” Michael Adray said.

“It’s going to be hard to get our message across to consumers,” Lou Adray added.


Adray’s at a Glance

* Headquarters: Orange

* Founded: 1967

* President and owner: Lou Adray

* Type of business: Appliance and electronics store

* Employees: 30

* Store location: 1809 W. Chapman Ave., Orange


The original Adray’s were independently operated by the four Adray brothers and a son of one of the brothers. Two stores were left in 1979 when the owner of the Los Angeles store sold it--and limited rights to the name--to an investor group. The resulting battle waged by the family-owned store in Orange lasted 18 years but ended with the store in Orange regaining sole use of the family name. What’s become of the stores:


Founder: Mike Adray

Opened: 1955

Status: Still operating


(Beverly Boulevard)

Founder: Andy Adray

Opened: 1965

Status: Closed in 1974


Founder: Sam Adray

Opened: 1966

Status: Closed in 1970


Founders: Andy Adray and a cousin, Eddie Aladray

Opened: 1967

Owner: Lou Adray, a brother, who purchased Andy’s share in 1968 and gained full control when he bought out Eddie Aladray in 1971

Status: Still operating


(Wilshire Boulevard)

Founder: Richard Adray (Andy Adray’s son)

Opened: 1976

Status: Sold in 1979 to Adry-Mart, an investor group that expanded to 10 stores in Los Angeles and Ventura counties under the name Adray’s. Competitive pressures forced the chain out of business in 1996

Source: Adray’s in Orange