Singing the Brues

June 18, 1999

It took longer than you might suspect, but the long arms of the lawyers have finally caught up to feared trademark infringer Harry Grandinett and his erstwhile Harry's House of Blues at Public Square.

The attorneys didn't like the idea that Grandinett had adopted the "House of Blues" label, which was already in use by a chain of trendy clubs owned by well-heeled corporate investors that include Blues Brother Dan Aykroyd, actor Dennis Hopper, bluesy rock group Aerosmith, Harvard University, Walt Disney Corp. and the Halfway Volunteer Fire and Rescue Co.

Obviously the Walt Disney Corp. was seriously concerned that its multi-billion dollar worldwide conglomeration might be brought to its knees by a Hagerstown coffee shop.

Well, they should be worried, because if Disney put half the care into its products as Harry Grandinett does into his, it might actually come in the ballpark of once in a while producing some worthwhile entertainment.


As for Conehead Dan Aykroyd, well, he probably doesn't know where his own Houses of Blues are located, much less Harry's.

Unhappily, although sensibly, Grandinett decided not to fight this Very Very Big Corporation and will change the name of his coffee house to Harry's House of Brues.

That's OK I guess, but I wish he'd consulted me before changing the stationery. I mean you and I get it, but what of the estimated six tourists this year who will become lost while looking for Gettysburg and find themselves wandering through Public Square in Hagerstown?

Won't they just chalk it up to another instance of country folk not knowing how to spell? House of Brues sounds like what you get if you cross a music hall with a Chinese restaurant. It reminds me that we used to get a lot of yuks at the school paper when a bunch of us would get on the phone and dial up the Hallelujah Chinese Restaurant in Morgantown just to hear the owner answer "Herro Herrerujah."

We'd laugh hysterically as we all slammed the phones down. Goodness, we were such idiots.

Anyway, I think Grandinett should have gone with the horn angle (Harry's House of Blews), the bar angle (Harry's House of Booze) or the angle of weekends when the band's not too sharp (Harry's House of Boos).

Grandinett could go with the chimney sweep look (Harry's House of Flues), the Native American slant (Harry's House of Siouxs) or to be really coffee-house eclectic and employ a Native American/Semitic twist (Harry's House of Jiouxs).

Harry's House of Blues could give all patrons a complimentary Hawaiian shirt and rename the place Harry's Blouse of Hues. Or finally. if he were tempted to defiantly stick it to the man, he could rename it Harry's Hard Rock Cafe.

And frankly, he didn't have to strike a musical chord. Harry makes the best ham sandwich in town, so he could have gone with Galloping Grandinett or Harry Can Cook.

I was looking over that list of investors again (all right, I was kidding about Halfway) and I see another opportunity for mischief. The U of M. could locate its Western Maryland branch campus in downtown Hagerstown after all and name it "Harvard University."

Pam Reed renames her shop "Barns and Noble Etc." and Mary Ellen Pryor weighs in with the "Short Stop Tavern on the Green" and Hagerstown engages a segment of the tourism industry no one else has thought to capitalize on - Welcome to historic downtown Hagerstown, trademark infringement capital of the United States.

People would come from near and far to buy their T-shirts with "Hagerstown" on the front and the Nike swoosh on the back. What are they going to do, sue us? Place a lien on our crows? Attach our tip jar winnings?

Big deal. Trademark theft could work. And nobody can say the idea isn't original.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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