COLUMBIA, SC — A year ago, Columbia business owner Debbie McDaniel got a letter in the mail from Neiman Marcus, demanding that her small charity shop stop using the name Revente’s Last Call.
Stunned that the clothing giant – which has no presence in South Carolina – would object to the name of her tiny store on Millwood Avenue, McDaniel got help from a lawyer and prepared to defend her shop, which donates tens of thousands of dollars a year to the local women’s shelter.
At issue was a trademark that Neiman Marcus said it had for the phrase “Last Call” in clothing sales.
The high-end retailer said it was worried McDaniel’s 1,800-square-foot store at 3015 Millwood Ave., which opened in 2010 with 100 percent of its proceeds donated to the Women’s Shelter, could be confused by consumers with Last Call by Neiman Marcus, a clearance store for the retailer’s out-of-season clothing and accessories.
The closest Last Call by Neiman Marcus is an outlet store 220 miles from Columbia in Lawrenceville, Ga.
A couple of months ago, McDaniel agreed to change the store’s name to Revente’s Second Chances. That has meant re-branding everything: putting up new signs, a new website and Facebook page, a new city business license, new business cards, etc.
Whether that re-branding is cutting into the profits given to the women’s shelter – helping keep the lights on and putting food on the table for women who are trying to rebuild their lives – was unclear Thursday.
McDaniel could give only a statement that basically noted the name change and the business’ continued support of the shelter. Her attorney, James Smith, said he still is working to finalize paperwork on the deal and could not release further details Thursday.
Efforts to reach a Neiman Marcus spokeswoman were unsuccessful. The Dallas-based retailer said last year that it was just trying to protect its trademark and wanted an “amicable solution.”
Kathy Riley, who runs the women’s shelter, said Revente’s Second Chances donates about $25,000 a year to the shelter – about 7 percent of that facility’s $350,000 annual budget.
“But it’s more than that,” Riley said. “It’s consistent. It’s a monthly thing that we count on, rather than a grant that we may or may not get. This is not iffy.”
The shelter is run mainly on donations, Riley said. Beyond power and food, the donations also help women buy bus tickets to get to jobs or appointments, pay for medicine and help pay for general operations.
McDaniel – who also runs the Revente and Sid & Nancy clothing stores in Five Points – opened the store as a way to give back to the community. She sells clothes that don’t meet her standards to be sold at Revente, a consignment shop, and other donations.
“For a nonprofit to have a store is not really extraordinary,” Riley said. “But for a for-profit (store) to (also) run a business and give all of its profits away is not a common model. That’s what makes (McDaniel) and Revente so extraordinary.”
And that’s what makes the nearly year-long ordeal of changing the store’s name sting all the more, Riley said. “That’s just a pain, an unnecessary pain in some of our minds.”