Tupelo Honey Teas Forced To Change Name Due To Trademark Dispute With Restaurant Chain | Food | Pittsburgh
It is reasonable to assume that being in business for years would protect a business from the threat of losing its name. A local business demonstrates that this is not the case, as the owner claims he had to change his name due to pressure from an outside restaurant chain.
Tupelo honey teas, a tea room and a vegan cafe at Millvale, announced via social media on February 15 that he had officially changed his name to Showy Bee Tea Co. The space, which has been operating since 2016, said it had to drop its original name after Tupelo Honey Southern Kitchen & Bar, a North Carolina-based restaurant chain, threatened legal action over trademark rights.
Abeille Voyante owner Danielle Spinola said the CEO of Tupelo Honey Southern Kitchen & Bar – also known as Tupelo Honey Hospitality Corporation – initially contacted her via email in early October 2021. It was months before Tupelo Honey Southern Kitchen & Bar is set to launch its new Pittsburgh location at Station Square (the location opened in January).
“The tone was actually quite friendly,” says Spinola. “And it was more along the lines of saying his attorneys thought we were in trademark infringement. I told him, I didn’t think it was possible that we were. We’re two completely different companies.
From there, Spinola says they decided to let their respective lawyers “get their own way and do their lawyer thing.” Spinola says Tupelo Honey’s lawyers offered to let her sign a lease with the company to keep the name. After reviewing the contract, Spinola says she quickly realized that this option would not be right for her or her business.
“And we looked at the lease, and it basically took away our ability to grow as a business, it took away our ability to grow more than we were, we had to take on their logo and take on their identity, but we weren’t ‘We have no right to tell anyone why we were doing this,” Spinola says. “And I said no to that immediately.”
When asked to comment on the matter, Christin Prince, senior vice president of marketing for Tupelo Honey, said Pittsburgh City Paper via email, “I have looked into the matter further and found that it is currently unresolved, so I am not free to discuss it.”
According to a press release, Tupelo Honey Southern Kitchen & Bar was launched in 2000 as “one of the first farm-to-table scratch kitchens in downtown Asheville, NC.” Based on “Southern and Appalachian cuisine and traditions,” Tupelo Culinary Vice President Eric Gabrynowicz says the chain’s specialty is “creating delicious Southern brunches, lunches, and dinners using ingredients responsibly sourced while celebrating local culture and community”.
The Pittsburgh Tupelo Honey Southern Kitchen & Bar is the chain’s 18th location nationally.
the old Honey teas from Tupelo, and what became Abeille Voyante, specializing in artisanal teas combined with the “healing properties of herbs”. According to a precedent city paper story, Abeille Voyante started out as a wholesale tea blender, then moved to a boutique in Allison Park before finally relocating to Millvale, the neighborhood where Spinola grew up.
As she said to city paperand in Abeille Voyante’s social media posts, Spinola decided it was not possible to fight to keep the Tupelo Honey Teas name, especially after the financial damage suffered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I realized then that I could spend a ton of money on lawyers and fight this and make it an ugly legal battle in the public eye,” Spinola says, “or I could use that same money – it’s not very much, I don’t have a ton to rename – and move on and let it go.”
In total, Spinola says she had to spend around $10,000 to do the rebranding, which covers the cost of creating a new website and logo, redesigning her inventory photos and payment of attorney’s fees. Currently, the Abeille Voyante website still bears the Tupelo Honey Teas name and logo, with a pop-up announcing that the new logo and name are coming soon. Social media posts indicate that the company’s full “makeover” should be completed in the “coming days and weeks”.
In some ways, Spinola says she sees change as a new chapter for her business and prefers to look ahead. This goal is reflected in the new name, which she says means “bee that can see into the future” in French, and also honors the store’s longstanding use of bees in its brand.
She says the name change could also be a blessing because Bee Seeing has already started getting calls from guests, and even employees thinking of contacting Tupelo Honey Southern Kitchen & Bar.
After all, Spinola says she’s not mad at the Tupelo Honey Southern Kitchen & Bar as much as she is at the law for allowing a company to trademark so many variations of “Tupelo Honey,” an actual term. for honey produced in swamps in Florida and Georgia. Besides Tupelo Honey Southern Kitchen & Bar and Tupelo Honey Hospitality Corporation, the company also claims Tupelo Honey Cafe, among others.
“The CEO told me they’ve done this to other companies and other places in other cities,” Spinola says. “So the thing is, I’m not the only one, and I probably won’t be the last either. So the fact that there is this predatory approach to business that allows these companies to do this, to me, is a systemic issue.