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Wacky business names in Los Angeles

When William Eskandari decided to change the name of his family-run liquor store in Glendale, he wanted something that would stand out from dozens of other, similar stores in town.

He succeeded. As of 2005, the business has been known as Hammered Liquor.

“Everybody laughs at it. They like it. People drive by and they see the name, and they come in and ask for T-shirts and caps,” Eskandari said. “I’m thinking in the future we’ll probably get some to sell.”

Not far from Los Angeles International Airport is another liquor store with a name that gets noticed, but not in the way the original owners intended.

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It’s the AA Liquor Market.

Andre Habelrih, who bought the business in 2003, said it was a coincidence that the name was also the initials of Alcoholics Anonymous.

“The other owners didn’t change it, and I didn’t change it,” Habelrih said. “My name is Andre, so it’s a good name for me: Andre’s Alcohol.”

The Los Angeles area is home to a dizzying array of business names that -- intentionally or not -- have the power to surprise us, confound us and spur us to laugh.

There’s Abba Chiropractic (where they perhaps sing while adjusting) and Mr. T. Meat Market in South Los Angeles, Bad Burrito Productions in Hollywood and Angel’s Touch Dental Spa in Rolling Hills Estates.

A company name that gets more than a quick glance is not bad for business.

“There is so much clutter out there that you have to pick something that distinguishes yourself,” said William Crookston, who teaches entrepreneurial studies at USC’s Marshall School of Business.

Often, the best names are distinctive and simple. Crookston cites Apple as one of the best.

“It’s easy, you remember it, it’s almost biblical, it’s colorful and it comes early in the alphabet,” he said.

But business owners who try to be too clever can do themselves more harm than good, Crookston said. A company that tries to “get so cutesy” with a name, he said, can end up with one that puzzles more than it intrigues.

Los Angeles gets much of its character from its diversity, but sometimes business names by entrepreneurs from other countries lose something in translation.

In the Koreatown area, for example, there are restaurants named Toe Bang and Ham Hung Inc. and a book shop called Happy Book Store.

Jack Kyser, an economist with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., said names should shoot for appeal beyond its own neighborhood.

“You’ve got to be very sensitive and careful if you are trying to attract any kind of a wide audience,” Kyser said.

Sometimes a good name is one that is practically no name at all.

David Nagoshiner owns two stores -- in Venice and Mar Vista -- that sell T-shirts. Both shops are called Anonymous.

It’s a simple name, catchy, memorable and, just as Crookston likes, at the beginning of the alphabet.

But it has meaning beyond a business name for Nagoshiner. It’s his heartfelt tribute to Alcoholics Anonymous.

“Anonymity is the thread that binds [the organization] together,” Nagoshiner said. “The whole idea is you don’t want to scream your name too loudly or promote yourself.

“I think our name is probably one of the best out there.”

business@latimes.com


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